Monday, 8 February 2021

Vaccination in Croatia: 25,200 Doses of Moderna and AstraZeneca to be Distributed Today

February 8, 2021 - Vaccination in Croatia continues as the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed in Slavonia and Dalmatia on Monday. 

HRT reports that Croatia's favorable epidemiological situation continues, as 276 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Sunday. The share of positive cases among those tested was 5.3%. Unfortunately, another 25 patients died.

The number of patients in hospital treatment and on ventilators was the same as Saturday - 1,142 patients are in hospital, and 107 are on ventilators.

On Monday, 25,200 doses of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed in Croatia. Those over the age of 65, the chronically ill, and everyone else who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated.

Epidemiologist Iva Pem Novosel (Croatian Public Health Institute) explained that the distribution to Slavonia and Dalmatia starts on Monday. Istria and central Croatia will receive doses on Wednesday, and the northern part of Croatia will receive them on Friday. Vaccine quantities are determined in proportion to the population.

Although pensioners' associations are asking to postpone the vaccination of the elderly with the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pem Novosel says that Croatia's situation is not such that vaccination should be postponed.

"Already after the first dose, the effectiveness develops in three weeks, and when two full doses are received with the maximum interval of 12 weeks, that efficiency is as much as 82%," she says.

On Sunday, Split-Dalmatia and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties were in the lead in terms of the number of infected people.

Vladimir Mićović, NZJZ director of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, called for caution when easing measures.

He is in favor of, he said, a certain gradual opening if there are indicators and preconditions, and above all, the opening of schools. He also mentioned, "coffee on terraces."

"Maybe we should think about it if there are conditions," he said.

On Monday, high school students return to the classroom in Zagreb and Lika-Senj County.

"Almost 30,000 additional high school students from Zagreb will return to school on Monday. All those schools that worked according to model A in the first half of the year will work according to the same model Monday, and it is difficult to say how this will affect the epidemiological situation," says Ivica Lovrić, head of the Zagreb City Office for Education.

Compared to December, Zagreb schools are 10 times less infected, he added.

"We have 114 infected students and 86 infected employees. If we put this in the context of somewhere around 100,000 children and employees coming to schools, then that really isn’t a big number. We hope that the number will not grow; of course, if the epidemiological situation worsens, we will again consider the introduction of model C," he points out.

Valentina Zdunić, head of the Department for Social Activities of Lika-Senj County, announced that as of Monday, a total of 1,135 high school students would be in school. She emphasized that the schools are ready and that if the epidemiological situation worsens, they will switch to another teaching model.

To prevent this from happening, adhering to epidemiological guidelines is the best option.

To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Vaccination of General Population in Croatia in Early Spring?

February 7, 2021 - Could the general population in Croatia be vaccinated in early spring? One Croatian Public Health Institute epidemiologist weighs in.

Croatian Public Health Institute epidemiologist Iva Pem Novosel said for Dnevnik N1 that the start of vaccination of all age groups against coronavirus could be expected in early spring.

However, waiting for the vaccine depends on its delivery, said Iva Pem Novosel.

"I advise everyone to get vaccinated if they have the opportunity, not to wait. All vaccines, including AstraZeneca - if it has a slightly lower effect than the other two, work to protect severe forms of the infection and those that end in death. All vaccines protect against them. That is the most important thing we need to achieve," says Iva Pem Novosel.

The effectiveness of the first dose is satisfactory, and protection is achieved after three weeks, she added.

"It’s hard for me to say when the vaccination will end; we know how many older people we have, but we don’t know how many will be vaccinated. However, the number of those who want to be vaccinated is growing every day. This is good both for the protection of the individual and for the protection of the community. This will bring us collective immunity faster," said the epidemiologist.

People over the age of 65 are now vaccinated, followed by people with chronic diseases, as they are all members of the risk group who can get a severe form of the infection with complications. If the delivery dynamics are adequate, other citizens can be vaccinated in early spring, she said.

Will the EMA approve the Russian vaccine?

"This process may have already begun, so it will likely happen. I think we will get the next vaccines quickly, and we will be in a better situation and have a choice," said Pem Novosel.

Serbia announced the possibility of producing Sputnik. Can something similar be expected in Croatia?

"It would be ideal if it could be implemented, so experts from Immunology should be asked about it," she said.

She said she was sorry that some entrepreneurs were suffering when it comes to measures, but she also said that the epidemic was not even close to ending.

"We sympathize with them. However, we must remind them that the epidemic is not even close to the end, with all our positive and optimistic wishes. Vaccination is in the initial phase, we now have about two percent vaccinated in the population, and it is desirable to vaccinate 50 percent of the population," said the epidemiologist.

She also said that it is possible that a new strain has crept in but that it is comforting that the numbers are satisfactory.

"But if we gave in a little and if there was a new strain, there would be problems again. Any opening, for example, gyms and cafe terraces, would still mean that certain measures should be adhered to. Measures should be respected everywhere and at every opportunity," said Iva Pem Novosel.

To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Friday, 5 February 2021

Croatian Public Health Institute Reveals AstraZeneca Vaccination Plan in Croatia

February 5, 2021 - The Croatian Public Health Institute has revealed the details of the AstraZeneca vaccination plan in Croatia. The first vaccinations will begin next week. 

The Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) has announced that the third vaccine against COVID-19 will be available in Croatia next week. It is a vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca/Oxford, and 150,000 doses of this vaccine should arrive in Croatia in February.

AstraZeneca is intended for people over 18 years of age. Two doses of this vaccine are needed, and the second dose should be given between 8 and 12 weeks after the first dose.

“In clinical studies taken into consideration by the European Medicines Agency, vaccine efficacy is about 60% in disease prevention defined by the presence of at least one of the symptoms of the disease with laboratory confirmation of infection.

The estimated efficacy of this vaccine in the elderly is equal to that in younger adults. Still, in the data taken into account by the European Medicines Agency, it did not prove statistically significant, primarily due to the small number of respondents in older age groups," says HZJZ.

HZJZ also explains that the side effects caused by this vaccine are not unexpected and unusual, and "the only real contraindication for use is hypersensitivity to the components of the vaccine."

According to the HZJZ, there is no maximum age limit for the use of this vaccine.

"Based on the available data on clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines registered in Croatia by a centralized procedure (via the European Medicines Agency), there is no reason to make a recommendation for vaccination that would differ from the indications approved by the European Medicines Agency, i.e., the minimum age limit for the use of this vaccine is 18 years. There is no maximum age limit."

Based on additional information about AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, which indicates that:

- it has been shown that a single dose of AstraZeneca vaccine protects about 70% for three weeks after administration and that this protection does not weaken within 12 weeks,
- according to the Summary of Product Characteristics, the recommended interval between the first and second dose is 4 to 12 weeks,
- the final result, i.e., the efficacy after the second dose, is higher when the interval between the first and second doses is greater,

we recommend that the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine be given 8-12 weeks after the first dose," concluded HZJZ.

Illustration by Little Shiva


To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Monday, 25 January 2021

Plenković: Vaccine Diplomacy Has Turned Into Vaccine Hijacking

ZAGREB, 25 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the COVID vaccine diplomacy was turning into vaccine hijacking, adding that a joint EU lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers is possible if they do not meet contract obligations.

Speaking to the press, Plenković said that the European Council adopted a firm stance on Thursday that the deadline should be respected.

Some countries are paying more per dose than what the EU paid, he said, adding that that is not part of the agreement.

The prime minister said that Croatia had not yet turned towards other vaccines because the agreement was that we EU member states do not contact the manufacturers themselves.

"Once that happens, there is no joint agreement. The joint agreement must ensure that the entire at-risk population is covered by the summer, that is most important," he said.

Italy is preparing a lawsuit against Pfizer, and Plenković thinks that will be a joint activity at the EU level, adding that the Commission signed the agreement "on our behalf."

Asked whether the European Union will enter into new negotiations with the manufacturers and offer a higher price, like some countries are doing, he said he did not see the logic behind such a move.

"They should be paying penalties to us and not vice versa," the prime minister said.

I think we will provide doses for second shot

The prime minister thinks that Croatia will provide the doses necessary to administer the second shot to people who have been vaccinated. "You've heard the epidemiologists, the deadline is 21 days... There will be no danger that someone who received the first shot doesn't receive the second one in time," he said.

As for politicians, he said there were fewer than a hundred at the national level that had been vaccinated, adding that the government has concluded that it is good to vaccinate ministers who have not been infected with coronavirus.

Asked about the relaxation of epidemiological measures and the possibility that cafes and restaurant reopen in February, Plenković said that those matters were discussed in yesterday's meeting.

At the EU level, there is currently great caution due to the new strains of the virus. The vaccination dynamic has changed due to delivery slowing down, which is another reason for caution, he said.

"The figures are encouraging, the situation is more favourable than usual, but those are not ideal circumstances," the prime minister said.

"After yesterday's discussion we think that the situation is challenging," Plenković said.

Asked whether children will return to schools at the beginning of February, he said that the national COVID-19 crisis management team would explain everything at its press conference today.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Croatia Will Suspend New Pfizer Vaccinations, Not Enough Doses Available

January 22, 2021 - Croatia will suspend new Pfizer vaccinations for the time being as there are not enough doses currently available. 

T.portal reports that the director of the Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, expressed dissatisfaction with the dynamics of vaccine delivery to Croatia during a press conference on Friday. Capak noted that it is not operating according to how it was negotiated and signed, and they are now receiving reduced quantities. 

"Moderna informed us yesterday that it would be a week late with delivery and that it would reduce our doses," Capak said, adding that the vaccination plan must now be restructured.

"We don’t have the Pfizer vaccine for new vaccinations, but we will now have to keep what we have for revaccination," Capak said, adding that 11,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine should arrive in early February.

He said that the quantities of vaccines coming are 'far below what we negotiated, and it is made even more difficult for us by the fact that they were initially given larger quantities, and now they are reduced.'

"We will certainly be able to vaccinate for the second dose, but we will have to suspend new vaccinations," Capak said. "Through individual contacts with European Commission officials and producers, we seek our rights, but so far, this has remained only an attempt," he added.

"We are now in a situation where we have to restructure our vaccination plan; now we are storing the Pfizer vaccine exclusively for the second dose and waiting until mid-February to get some larger quantities. Moderna promised us that they would deliver what they promised the week after the first one, and we can only hope that'll be the case," said Capak.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is likely to be registered on January 29, and distribution will follow soon after. The European Union is currently working on the distribution by member states.

Capak also spoke about when he expects the general population to be largely vaccinated.

"It all depends on the delivery of the vaccine. We are ready for much faster vaccination, all county public health institutes, health centers, and family doctors are ready for it, but we do not have vaccines. If AstraZeneca delivers larger quantities after registration, we could vaccinate much faster. I think that together with all the other doses, it was promised that we would have the general population largely vaccinated by the summer," said Capak on Jutarnji List.

Illustration by Little Shiva

To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Almost 46,000 Croats Vaccinated, Second Shot to be Given as of 18 Jan

ZAGREB, 17 January, 2021 - By mid-January 45,906 people in Croatia have received the first shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the second shot will be administered as of 18 January, the Croatian Institute of Public Health said on Sunday.

The second dose will be given to people who have been vaccinated across the country since 27 December.

All persons inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine need to receive the second shot three weeks after the first. 

The World Health Organization says the optimal gap between the two shots of that vaccine, the first to be registered in the EU, is 21 to 28 days. According to clinical studies, it should not exceed six weeks.

4,757 people vaccinated in quake-hit Sisak-Moslavina County

In Sisak-Moslavina County, which was hit by a magnitude 6.2 earthquake on 29 December, 4,757 people have been vaccinated. Besides local inhabitants, many of whom lost their homes, members of emergency services and volunteers who stayed in the area after the tremor were also vaccinated.

Inoculation with Moderna's vaccine began on 13 January in Sisak-Moslavina County and among members of emergency services before their going to the quake-hit areas. The gap between the two shots of this vaccine is a minimum four weeks.

Coronavirus vaccination in Croatia began on 27 December and the first to be vaccinated was a female resident of a Zagreb retirement home.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Entire Shipment of Moderna's Vaccine to be Sent to Quake-Hit Banovina, Daily Says

ZAGREB, 10 January, 2021 - Sisak-Moslavina County has been given priority in the vaccination process and next week a complete shipment of Moderna's vaccine will be sent to the earthquake-hit county, Jutarnji List daily said on Sunday.

The number of coronavirus infections in Sisak-Moslavina County has jumped from 60 to 124 in the past two days. The increase has been expected as it was impossible to comply with epidemiological measures after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck the area on 29 December. The priority was to save human lives, clear the rubble and provide people with temporary accommodation.

It is still difficult to comply with epidemiological measures in that county due to a high fluctuation of people. That is why the county was given priority in the testing process and the ongoing coronavirus vaccination process.

"More than a thousand people were vaccinated in that county on Thursday alone. We are doing everything we can to keep the epidemiological situation under control. Also, we have sent large quantities of rapid antigen tests there. We have sent six teams to perform rapid antigen tests in the quake-hit area," the head of the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ), Krunoslav Capak, told Jutarnji List.

He announced that a complete shipment of Moderna's vaccine would be sent to that county next week.

To date, 30,000 people have been vaccinated in Croatia, while 3,036 people were vaccinated in Sisak-Moslavina County alone by Friday night. A new shipment of 17,550 doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech will arrive on Monday, and 4,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine will arrive on Tuesday.

"We have talked with the prime minister and I think that Moderna's entire shipment will go to Sisak-Moslavina County. A week later another 17,550 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and another 6,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine will arrive in Croatia," Capak said.

However, mass vaccination in Croatia will commence only after AstraZeneca registers its vaccine. The first shipment of that vaccine was supposed to arrive in EU countries, including Croatia, at the end of December, but the manufacturer is still waiting for approval from European regulators. According to unofficial information, the vaccine should be registered by the end of January, and when distribution begins, more than 200,000 doses should arrive in Croatia in their first shipment (of a total of 2.7 million that Croatia ordered from that manufacturer), Jutarnji List said.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Capak: 443 Medical Staff, 1,711 Retirement Home Residents Vaccinated

ZAGREB, Dec 28, 2020 - Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) director Krunoslav Capak said on Monday 443 medical staff and 1,711 retirement home residents were vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday, the first day of vaccination in Croatia.

Speaking at a press conference of the national COVID-19 response team, Capak said the vaccine would not be available to family doctors before the second half of January, when the Moderna vaccine was expected and the vaccination of older people would begin.

"The Moderna vaccine can stay in a regular fridge for 30 days, whereas the Pfizer vaccine can stay only five days. We believe that will make the work of family doctors considerably easier," he said, adding that the HZJZ wanted to spare them during the current first stage of immunisation with the Pfizer vaccine.

Capak said the HZJZ and the Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices had received no reports of any side effects following yesterday's vaccination.

Alemka Markovic, director of Zagreb's Dr Fran Mihaljevic Hospital for Infectious Diseases, said two staff at the hospital had "mild rashes without any consequences" and that it was being established if anything other than the vaccine could have caused them.

Capak said another 7,800 doses would arrive this week, in eight boxes with 975 doses each, and that another 18 boxes would arrive next week.

Speaking of the vaccination campaign, he said the national COVID-19 response team had no intention of convincing anyone, rather they would inform people of the benefits via timely, precise, accurate and expert information.

Capak said the campaign began with media statements by vaccination experts and several conferences, and that a media campaign was being prepared. "We assume that a stronger media campaign will begin early in January."

He said the national response team's members would not be vaccinated on camera because the first doses were symbolic and being utilised for those most in need. "As soon as we get larger quantities, we will organise vaccination," he said, adding that vaccination points or mobile teams would be organised if necessary.

Speaking of the coronavirus infection incidence, Capak said that in the week of December 22-28 there were 48% fewer cases than the week before. "Yesterday's 14-day incidence per 100,000 population was 710.5 for Croatia. Medjimurje County has the highest incidence, 1,112, while Dubrovnik-Neretva County has the lowest, 235."

According to the World Health Organization methodology, ranking EU27 countries from lowest to highest incidence, Croatia is 23rd as to the 14-day incidence and 18th as to the seven-day incidence.

"The mortality rate per million population places us at 19 among the EU's 27 countries with a rate of 874.8," said Capak.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

First Two Employees of Zagreb's Dubrava Hospital Vaccinated Against COVID-19

ZAGREB, Dec 27, 2020 - A physician and a nurse working in the intensive care unit of Zagreb's Dubrava hospital, converted into the central hospital treating COVID-19 patients in Croatia, got vaccinated against the disease on Sunday.

The vaccination was attended by Health Minister Vili Beros.

Thirty-five employees of the hospital will get immunised today and a total of 200 doctors and nurses working at the hospital will be vaccinated in the next two days.

Acting hospital director Ivica Luksic said that today was a big day, encouraging in many ways.

"The KB Dubrava hospital and all its employees have been on the front line of the battle against the pandemic from the very first day and for all of us this is a new beginning in the treatment of this disease," he said.

Minister: We will reward KB Dubrava for selfless work done

Minister Beros underlined the role of the KB Dubrava hospital, which has been the most important centre in the country for the treatment of COVID-19 patients since March.

"More than 450 people are treated and 69 receive respiratory support on a daily basis at Dubrava. I learned this morning that 360,000 litres of liquid oxygen is spent an hour in the treatment of our patients. We could not have created such conditions in any other Zagreb hospital," Beros said, adding that if possible, the government would compensate the hospital and all its employees for their selfless work.

"We will consider expansion to include new, research elements and new services. Once this epidemic is over, that will be a sign of gratefulness to all Dubrava hospital employees," said the minister.

Beros said the number of infections in the past two days was small but that fewer tests were performed, noting that it was encouraging that the number of new infections had been declining in the past two weeks.

He said that the number of new hospital admissions today was higher than on Saturday but that there were fewer patients on ventilators than yesterday.

"The number of fatalities is the result of developments in the last 2-3 weeks. That number is expected to start going down in a week and a half because the mortality rate will start following the trend in the number of new infections," said the minister.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

First Medical Workers Get Vaccinated in Zagreb

ZAGREB, Dec 27, 2020 - The first medical workers in Croatia got vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday, and the vaccines were dispensed at Zagreb's "Dr Fran Mihaljevic" hospital for infectious diseases.

Resident Nikolina Bogdanic, the first medical worker to get vaccinated, said that she had no doubts as to whether to get immunised.

"Considering what I have been witnessing on a daily basis, I never had any doubts as to whether I should get vaccinated," she said, adding that she was happy the vaccine had arrived in Croatia so quickly.

"Every vaccination is a big step in the fight against this ugly pandemic," Dr Bogdanic said.

Markotic: Today is important, optimistic day; Beros: We have a powerful weapon

The head of the "Dr Fran Mihaljevic" hospital, Alemka Markotic, said that today was a very important and optimistic day.

"It is very important that we all understand how important it is to protect oneself in the coming months and to get vaccinated in line with the vaccination schedule. The more people get vaccinated, the greater the chance will be that we will protect ourselves," Markotic said.

She said that 30 employees of the hospital would get vaccinated today and that priority was given to young people.

Health Minister Vili Beros, who attended the vaccination, said that the start of vaccinations heralded an end to the pandemic but he called for compliance with epidemiological restrictions during the cold winter months.

"We now have a powerful weapon in the fight against COVID-19," the minister said.

"Vaccination is a medical procedure that has saved the most lives in the history of medicine, so let us see to it that that is so this time as well. Vaccination has reduced or eliminated a large number of diseases, let us hope it will be the same with COVID-19... Vaccines reduce the clinical effects of dangerous diseases, so let us be optimistic and get vaccinated," the minister said.

He noted that talks had been held with representatives of family physicians and that vaccination offices and mobile teams were being organised. Also, work is underway on launching a platform that will make it easier for family doctors to keep a record of people interested in getting vaccinated, the minister said.

He called on citizens to contact their GPs, noting that they are the most relevant factor in assessing their condition and everything related to vaccination.

"Since the vaccination of larger groups of the population is expected in the spring, there is enough time until then and we will certainly organise the vaccination in the best possible way," said Beros.

HZJZ head: Another 8,000 doses to arrive next week

The head of the Croatian Public Health Institute, Krunoslav Capak, said that slightly fewer than 8,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would arrive in Croatia next week, and that 17,000 doses would arrive in the week after January 4.

After that, 18,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be arriving on a weekly basis, after which slightly greater quantities will be arriving, he said.

Capak expressed hope that after January 10 larger quantities of the Moderna vaccine would start arriving as well.

Earlier in the day, vaccination against COVID-19 began in Croatia, with 81-year-old Branka Anicic, a resident of a Zagreb retirement home, being the first person to get vaccinated.

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