Friday, 16 April 2021

Croatia Will Have Received 1.8 Million Pfizer COVID Doses by 1 July

ZAGREB, 16 April, 2021 - Croatia can expect the delivery of 1.8 million Pfizer doses against coronavirus and the inoculation of 55% of the population against this infectious disease until 1 July, the national COVID-19 crisis management team said on Friday.

Representatives of the team said at a news conference that Croatia has registered a 32% weekly rise in new cases, and that the share of positive tests was 29.2% on Friday.

In terms of the incidence rate, Croatia  currently ranks 21st in the European Union and in the terms of the death rate, it ranks 17th, Croatia's chief epidemiologist Krunoslav Capak told the news conference.

"Pfizer has ramped up its delivery of vaccines for us. We Will have received a total of 1.805 million doses of this vaccine by the end of June," Capak said adding that he expected more than half of the population to get COVID shots before 1 July.

The head of the Zagreb-based Fran Mihaljević hospital for infectious diseases, Alemka Markotić called for additional caution before people get vaccinated.

"It would be a pity to develop serious symptoms of this disease now when we can be vaccinated soon," she said.

She said that the British variant of the novel virus was currently dominant in the European Union.

Markotić said that her hospital has been full with patients for days and that she was particularly concerned with the difficult condition of patients aged between 25 and 40.

Health Minister Vili Beroš reassured the general public that there would be enough vaccines for everyone who wishes to be immunised against this infectious disease.

Beroš dismissed accusations from some media outlets and Opposition lawmakers that the Cuspis company, which is allegedly owned by a family friend, had been favoured by the Health Ministry in the task to design the Cijepise (Get Vaccinated) platform.

Beroš said that all data concerning this issue were available on the ministry's website.

Beroš went on to say that the company had been hired by the ministry for some other tasks before he became an assistant minster and before his ministerial term.

For more about vaccination in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Phase 3 Vaccination Plan in Croatia: The Doses and Details

April 3, 2021 - Could 100,000 doses be delivered each week? A look at the phase 3 vaccination plan in Croatia.

Jutarnji List reports that in the second half of April, Croatia should vaccinate everyone over the age of 65 with one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, 55 percent of the total adult population should be vaccinated by June 30, and 70 percent by the end of the summer. The third phase of mass vaccination at the Zagreb Fair should finally start from mid-April, which will include all those who have registered on the platform, according to the order of applications.

In the week when we recorded a significant increase in the number of new cases, good news arrived on Thursday night from Brussels. It was agreed that an additional 747,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine would be delivered to Croatia by the end of June. This month, Croatia should get 600,000 doses from different manufacturers, which is more than in the first three months of this year in total, which finally allows us to start mass vaccination.

Already this week, more than 120,000 doses of vaccine arrived. Zagreb received 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca on Friday, and on Wednesday, says the "Štampar" director, Zvonimir Šostar.

"We are going to finish the second phase, and then from April 15, we will enter the third phase where we will invite all Zagreb citizens registered on the platform. Citizens will get the exact dates, and as they applied, we will call them. We ask everyone to come at the right time, and not earlier so as not to create crowds," says Šostar and adds that those who reported to their doctors will also be vaccinated because they had to register them on the platform.

"We are now in the middle of the second phase of vaccination in the whole country, but there are several people from that phase who do not want to be vaccinated, so I believe that the third phase could start on April 15 in Zagreb. We will determine the economic priorities for vaccination, and we will send all the surplus to the points for mass vaccination," says the director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac said on Friday that she expects tourism workers to begin vaccinations in May. With these additional doses of Pfizer, Croatia has now exceeded the number of 9 million ordered doses. With that, Croatia will be below the EU average by June 30 because the Union will be at 65 percent, and Croatia at 55 percent of vaccinations. This ratio would have been much worse if these additional doses had not been agreed upon because only 90,000 doses would have arrived in Croatia in the second quarter under the proportional "pro-rata" system. Croatia is now at 11.4 percent of adults vaccinated with a single dose, while the EU average is 13.9 percent.

It is unknown what amounts will arrive per week from these additional doses, but more than 50,000 doses can be expected each week until the end of June. Also, Croatia should receive 50,000 to 70,000 doses ordered earlier, which means that Croatia could have more than 100,000 doses per week.

Negotiations over these additional doses, sources say, have been quite difficult. Croatia thought that a larger amount of vaccines should be given to those countries with below-average vaccination coverage because they bet on AstraZeneca, which delivered only 30 percent of the agreed doses to the EU and only 17 percent to Croatia. In addition to Croatia, the winners of this agreement are Bulgaria, which has the lowest vaccination coverage, Latvia, Estonia, and Slovakia, while the biggest losers are the Czechs. Namely, an agreement was reached between 24 member states, and Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia did not join in because they demanded a larger amount of doses for themselves. However, all three countries will be above the EU average in July.

Other countries did not agree to this, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his colleagues from Slovenia and the Czech Republic remained isolated. It was not well received that Kurz was photographed with the Russian ambassador at the time when solidarity was being discussed, and it is significant that German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not even want to receive him in Berlin two weeks ago. Eventually, 19 states waived part of their total of 10 million doses arriving in the second quarter instead of the fourth.

Austria and Slovenia got something more than giving up part of their pro-rata doses but will not get anything in the fourth quarter. However, the Czech Republic, which is the hardest-hit country in the EU, received even less because it did not agree. For this principle that, in addition to pro-rata, vaccination is also considered, given the problems with AstraZeneca, Croatia advocated for an expert body of the Council, the so-called Steering Board. However, no agreement could be reached because the Scandinavian countries and Malta opposed this model.

After that, the European Council was held, after which some countries changed their position. Then, the conclusion was to find a solution in the "spirit of solidarity" for the distribution of these doses and to move the negotiations to the Permanent Representatives Committee (ambassadors). The Portuguese Presidency has put on the table a proposal to distribute 70 percent of the doses to everyone and 30 percent to go to these five states. And that was eventually accepted.

For more about Covid-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Croatia Continues to Administer AstraZeneca"

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that Croatia would continue to administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine despite the fact that some 20 countries have suspended vaccination due to blood clotting in some patients.

Although more and more countries are suspending the use of AstraZeneca, Croatia will wait for the opinion of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

"The stand of professionals on this matter is that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any risks known to them at the moment," Plenković told the press in Daruvar. "None of them has pointed to us any risks which would lead to the conclusion that vaccination should stop."

Today Plenković took part in an online meeting with prime ministers Sebastian Kurz of Austria, Janez Janša of Slovenia, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria, Andrej Babiš of the Czech Republic, and Arturs Karinš of Latvia.

The six EU member states will demand a corrective mechanism for vaccine distribution, Plenković said afterwards. "We agreed to jointly appeal for the creation of a corrective mechanism."

Thereby, he added, they wish to "compensate for the delay some countries have experienced due to the slower distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine."

EMA will meet on Thursday to discuss the information gathered and decide if said vaccine has contributed to thromboembolism in people who have received it.

For more about vaccination in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Thursday, 11 February 2021

PM: AstraZeneca Vaccine Protects Elderly from Death, Ventilators, Graver Symptoms

ZAGREB, 11 February, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine protected the elderly against death, ventilators and more serious symptoms, and that therefore there were no obstacles to administering it to people over 65.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he said that this morning he spoke with representatives of pensioner unions and associations which demand that people over 65 are not given the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Plenković told the public, notably older people, that all three COVID vaccines, Pfizer's, Moderna's and AstraZeneca's, "are 100% effective against death, against situations on ventilators and more serious symptoms."

He said that according to the information at the government's disposal, there were no obstacles to people over 65 receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"We believe that in these circumstances as many people as possible whose health is at risk, whose health is fragile, who are older, to whom coronavirus can cause major health damage in a short time, should be vaccinated."

Plenković said additional studies and trials would confirm that the AstraZeneca vaccine was equally effective in reducing the number of COVID deaths in Croatia.

The number of new infections keeps falling

Speaking of the epidemic, he said the decrease in new infections was continuing, as confirmed by this week's numbers.

Today Croatia is third in the EU by the weekly average of confirmed cases per million inhabitants and has the fifth largest two-week decrease in COVID deaths, he added.

"We are in the winter months and a strong cold wave has been announced, the British virus strain has been identified, so many European countries, which have much stricter measures, are extending or further restricting them."

Plenković said there were indications that vaccine deliveries would step up and that greater quantities could be expected by the end of March.

Croatia has received about 150,000 doses, another 600,000 are expected by the end of March, so it will be possible to vaccinate a markedly larger number of people, he added.

It is important that the Health Ministry, the Croatian Institute of Public Health, hospitals and general practitioners ensure mass vaccination, he said.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Croatia Will Get Russian Vaccine If It Asks for It, Says Ambassador

ZAGREB, 1 February, 2021 - Croatia will get the Russian COVID-19 vaccine if it asks for it, Russian Ambassador Andrey Nesterenko said in an interview with the Monday issue of the Večernji List daily.

EU countries, including Croatia, have been having difficulty obtaining pre-ordered vaccines and Russia is willing to provide 100 million doses in the second quarter, as confirmed to the daily by Ambassador Nesterenko.

Even though Croatia has still not officially asked Russia for the vaccine, Nesterenko says that the head of a research group at Zagreb's Ruđer Bošković Institute, Dragomira Meichen, is Croatia's representative on the international scientific council for the Sputnik V vaccine and that the platform for consultations with Croatian experts already exists.

Sputnik V has a number of advantages that greatly simplify the delivery of the vaccine worldwide - it is stored at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which makes it possible to keep it in an ordinary refrigerator, and the price per dose is less than US$ 10, which makes the vaccine affordable for many countries, the diplomat said.

The ambassador also said that the Russian vaccine could play an important role in the fight against the pandemic and be used in UN missions.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has therefore expressed hope that the World Health Organisation would approve the vaccine as soon as possible, the diplomat said.

He noted that Russia had so far received orders for the purchase of 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine from more than 50 countries.

Nesterenko added that the vaccine was being actively used in Russia, with vaccination conducted not only in hospitals but also in shopping malls and other venues. He added that a centre for the vaccination of foreign nationals had been opened in Moscow and that some of the foreign ambassadors serving in Russia had been vaccinated with Sputnik V.

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

Health Official Says Not Satisfied With Pace of Vaccine Delivery

ZAGREB, 22 January, 2021 - Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) director Krunoslav Capak said on Friday that he was not satisfied with the pace of COVID-19 vaccine delivery and that the vaccination plan would have to be changed because less than planned supplies were being delivered.

"We are not satisfied with the delivery, it is far below what we agreed. What makes the situation more difficult is that at the beginning we were given larger quantities of the vaccine and in the meantime they have decreased," Capak said at a news conference of the national coronavirus crisis management team.

"We will manage to vaccinate everyone who has been given the first dose of the vaccine but new vaccinations will have to be suspended as we do not have new vaccine supplies to begin administering the Pfizer vaccine," Capak said.

He added that Pfizer had reduced its deliveries for the next month by 30%.

Moderna, too, has changed the amount of the vaccine to be delivered, the delivery is a week late and it was promised that 11,000 doses would be delivered after February 1, he said.

"We must change the vaccination schedule because at the moment we do not have enough of the Pfizer vaccine to increase the number of people to be vaccinated but are keeping it for the second round of vaccination," he said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be registered on 29 January, its fast distribution has been promised and additional quantities, promised after the 29 December earthquake, are expected from the EU.

Capak says that the rate of inoculation of the population depends on vaccine deliveries but that with greater quantities of the AstraZeneca vaccine and all the other vaccines, it is possible to achieve a high rate of inoculation of the general population by summer.

He said that the epidemiological situation in the country had improved but that there was a danger of new virus strains and that one should also take into account the situation in the earthquake-hit Sisak-Moslavina County when considering possible relaxation of restrictions.

He said that compared to the previous week, there was a 21% drop in the number of new infections. The incidence is highest in Sisak-Moslavina County, which has a rate of 428 infections per 100,000 people, and it is lowest in Istria, with 114.5 new infections per 100,000 people.

The share of new infections in the tests done is 12.3%, which puts Croatia in 13th place in the EU. So far 64,951 people have been vaccinated, and in Sisak-Moslavina County 5,863 have been vaccinated, said Capak.

Markotić: New virus mutations put us where we were a year ago

The head of Zagreb's Dr Fran Mihaljević hospital for infectious diseases, Alemka Markotić, said that the third variant of the virus originated in Brazil and that it differed from the strains in Great Britain and South Africa.

It seems this virus could partly bypass the response of antibodies in persons who have developed immunity either because they got infected or were vaccinated, and that can also affect serological testing, she warned.

The entire EU is agreed that virus genome sequencing should be stepped up, she said, warning that coronavirus was prone to mutation and sought new ways to spread.

As for possible relaxation of anti-epidemic measures, she called for caution, citing the winter season, which facilitated the spread of the virus.

Even though vaccines seem to be effective against the strain from Great Britain, one should follow new mutations and adapt diagnostic tests to the new variants, she said.

The European Commission believes that the new variants of the virus put us back where we were a year ago when it appeared. Everyone hopes that the existing vaccines and tests will be appropriate for new variants but we have to be extremely cautious to prevent them from spreading, Markotić said.

Božinović: Measures to be defined at meeting on Sunday 

The head of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, declined to comment on the possible relaxation of epidemiological restrictions, saying that members of the coronavirus crisis management team and government ministers would meet on Sunday to discuss the topic.

He stressed that there was no draft for the relaxation of restrictions in the hospitality sector, an issue raised in recent days by the national hospitality sector association.

Božinović confirmed that inspections had been stepped up in ski resorts and spas and that so far 99 fines had been collected for failure to wear a face mask and 853 warnings had been issued.

He also said that the EU was ready to provide financial assistance for virus genome sequencing in the member-states.

"The European Commission wants the member-countries to sequence at least five percent of positive COVID-19 tests. We must step up our efforts to prevent potential damage from new strains," said Božinović.

Earlier in the day, the team said that in the last 24 hours, 643 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed and 32 people had died of the consequences of the coronavirus infection.

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.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Green-Left Bloc Refuse to Get Vaccinated Under Priority Vaccination Programme for MPs

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - The parliamentary group of the Green-Left Bloc have refused to undergo vaccination against COVID-19 as part of a priority vaccination programme for MPs, saying that there is not enough vaccine at this point and the doses intended for them should be administered to health workers and vulnerable groups.

"All members of the Green-Left Bloc want to get vaccinated against coronavirus and support the vaccination of as many people as possible. What's more, we think the vaccination is the only way for us to get back to at least a semblance of normality and halt the pandemic that has turned all our lives upside down," the group said in a statement on their Facebook page on Friday.

They said that, like ordinary citizens, they had contacted their GPs and signed up for vaccination as soon as there was enough vaccine for the general public.

A third of lawmakers, or 51, have signed up for vaccination, scheduled for Monday at 1pm.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has said it is important that MPs get vaccinated in order to send a message as politicians that vaccination is necessary and important and that it can help in the fight against COVID-19. He dismissed claims that it was lawmakers' privilege.

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.

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