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.

 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Koprivnica-Križevci Crisis Management Team Suspends Vaccination With AstraZeneca Vaccine

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - The Koprivnica-Križevci County's COVID-19 crisis management team on Tuesday decided to suspend mass vaccination with AstraZeneca shots against COVID-19, which was set for Wednesday, 17 March, until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) decides on the matter at its meeting on 18 March.

The mass inoculation was to have been held in a hall in Sveti Petar Orehovec for the residents of that town as well as for residents of Gornja Reka and Kalnik.

However, in the meantime it has been decided to wait for the EMA's decision.

To date, 6,363 residents of this county in north Croatia have been inoculated against coronavirus with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, and 1,961 have received both doses of the two-dose vaccine. There have been no reports of any serious side-effects.

The people who get vaccinated with vaccines registered in Croatia and the EU will have protection from getting seriously sick, which could eventually result in death, the team said.

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

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: EMA's Stance on AstraZeneca Vaccine to be Known Tomorrow

ZAGREB, 15 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that a coordinated stance by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine should be known tomorrow, after several countries have temporarily suspended administering the vaccine due to the emergence of certain side effects.

"Our stance is that a sound test has to be conducted to determine if there are any reasons, based on the findings so far, for Croatia also to go in that direction. From what the experts are telling me, there are no such indications for the time being. Tomorrow, we will probably see a coordinated stance by EMA, which as far as I understand, will proceed cautiously, that is, continue testing the vaccine itself and continue with consultations with the company regarding any possible consequences of the vaccination," Plenković said ahead of a joint meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Presidency and National Council.

He added that the director of Croatia's HALMED drug regulator, Siniša Tomić, today participated in EMA meetings which discussed what to do next considering the emergence of several side effects that have been reported throughout Europe.

In reference to the procurement of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, Plenković said that Croatia would wait for it to be approved and that the EMA had launched the relevant procedure. In the meantime, we will obtain additional information and test the vaccine, he added.

Asked who made the decision on how many doses of a vaccine Croatia would order, Plenković said that the procurement of vaccines was launched in the summer before reports that AstraZeneca had had certain problems with clinical trials.

"The vaccine that at the time was way ahead in terms of testing and the fact that it could be finished and its approval sought was AstraZeneca's and we, like the majority of other countries, immediately ordered the largest quantity of that vaccine. Then we ordered the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Croatia ordered a total of 8.7 million doses," said Plenković, adding that no one could have known that problems would emerge in vaccine production when the initial orders were made.

Asked whether anyone would be held responsible for the poor estimate in procuring vaccines, he said that for the entire time the aim had been to protect citizens, which was why more doses had been ordered than Croatia needed.

"The problem has emerged because one company, from which we ordered the biggest quantity... now has a problem in delivering the vaccine to the entire European Union. If that problem didn't exist, the rate of inoculation in Croatia would be very high," he explained.

Asked why Croatia didn't order the largest quantity of the Pfizer vaccine, which was the option many countries used, he said that only a few countries did that and that Croatia's decision was based on an expert opinion at the time.

"Croatia has a population of four million people and can immunise a maximum 3.4 million, and how could it justify buying 20 million doses?" "We did everything that was logical and correct based on the information that was available at the time and as time is moving on, we are looking for other solutions, just like everyone else," he said.

He added that it was necessary to find a corrective mechanism to redistribute the vaccines.

As far as continuing inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Croatia is concerned, Plenković said that the experts would decide on that. "As far as I understand, EMA's stance is that when the risk and benefits are taken into account, at the moment it is better to be vaccinated," said Plenković.

With regard to the European initiative for a vaccination certificate, Plenković said that the European Commission would release its proposal on Wednesday and that that would enable free movement and the tourism season.

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

Monday, 8 March 2021

Cavtat Among 15 Best European Destinations for Vaccinated Travelers

March 8, 2021 – While the European Union is deciding on introducing COVID passports, some travel portals are already making lists of the best destinations for people who got vaccinated. One such list created by the European Best Destinations portal included Cavtat among the 15 best European destinations for vaccinated travelers.

The Croatian town of Cavtat has recently been nominated for the best European destination and won third place. However, this time, it has found its position on the list of the 15 best European destinations, but for vaccinated travelers. Namely, the European Best Destinations (EBD) has listed Cavtat among the 15 best European destinations for vaccinated travelers, as destination travelers will most likely be able to visit.

As EBD reports, Cavtat is considered one of the safest destinations in Europe due to a low number of COVID-19 cases and proximity to airports (in case of repatriation) and hospitals. Also, the authorities' health measures and a wide range of accommodation options favor Cavtat's title of one of the safest European destinations.

As EBD calls it, this precious key will open the doors to a country renowned for its hospitality, gastronomy, sun, natural wonders, and magnificent beaches. Cavtat is, therefore, perfect to recharge batteries, enjoy good restaurants, meet locals, stroll around, or bathe in the crystal blue waters of the Konavle region.

Cavtat is once again in the chosen company of European destinations, among them: Tbilisi – the capital of Georgia, Portuguese Madeira and the Azores, Greek Rethymno, Kefalonia, Rhodes, Kos, and Athens, Iceland, Spanish Seville and the Canary Islands, Copenhagen and Rubjerg Knude of Denmark, and the Swedish capital Stockholm.

The European Union is currently working on introducing the so-called COVID passport, and some European countries have already recognized it. Numerous European countries have announced that they will make it easier for vaccinated travelers and tourists to enter their country.

However, Croatia has not yet officially responded to the topic of COVID passports. The Croatian media have recently learned that Croatian politics generally supports all efforts that will result in easier border crossings, but only if it will not be discriminatory towards citizens. Therefore, Croatia will support COVID passports only if it would not be mandatory for passengers.

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Monday, 8 March 2021

Epidemiologist: Roll-Out of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to Start in Croatia in Early April

ZAGREB, 8 March, 2021 - The distribution of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus single-dose vaccine can be expected in Croatia in early April, the head of Zagreb's Fran Mihaljević hospital for infectious diseases said on Sunday evening.

Asked by the commercial NOVA TV broadcaster whether Croatia is facing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital's head, Dr. Alemka Markotić, said that the developments in Croatia's neighbourhood and in Europe "are being followed with the closest attention."

"The numbers are rapidly rising. Each country is trying to take care of its specific features and act accordingly," the doctor said adding that Croatia is currently among the countries that are faring best against COVID.

Markotić recalls that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) tried to give some common guidelines, however, everybody assessed that their respective countries had too many differences and specific features.

"(Anti-epidemic) measures are important, we should adhere to them so as to keep the things at bay," Markotić said, among other things.

She added that on Monday a team of Croatian researchers would present findings of a study about the efficacy of the second shot of two-dose vaccines. The research has been conducted in Croatia.

The findings show that a high antibody titer was produced by some organisms after the they received the second dose of the COVID vaccination, she said.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Health Minister Beroš: "By This Morning 36,013 People Registered to be Vaccinated"

ZAGREB, 3 March 2021 - By this morning 36,013 people have registered online to be vaccinated, which indicates that citizens have recognised that vaccination is an unavoidable step in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Wednesday.

More than 50% of those who registered for vaccination were from Zagreb, followed by Split-Dalmatia and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties. There were also 948 phone calls by people interested in getting vaccinated, Beroš told a regular press conference by the national COVID response team.

The head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) Krunoslav Capak underscored that in the first three days of this week there were 11.7% more new cases of coronavirus compared to the same period last week.

The share of positive cases among those tested is 10.2% while in the past seven days that was 7.9% and in the past 14 days that share was 7.2%.

Croatia ranks 3rd in the European Union with regard to the incidence rate, with Germany and Denmark recording lower incidence rates while the Czech Republic has the highest rate.

The HALMED medicines agency has received 1,186 reports of side effects - 891 to the Pfizer vaccine, 222 to AstraZeneca and 71 to the Moderna vaccine.

Asked why fairs are not allowed, Capak said that that was being considered and added that it was not the same to have a farmers' market fair in downtown Zagreb and the usual village fairs where pigs are roasted on the spit and the festivities continue until late into the night.

The head of the response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said that measures were being relaxed gradually. He added that the measure to limit the number of people at funerals to 25 had brought about results.

There are some deviations and we are trying to respond to that in situations of funerals or some other organised event. Anyone organising such an event needs to do everything they can to keep it under control, said Božinović.

He added that as far as spontaneous gatherings like those in Zagreb are concerned, he recalled that a decision was adopted yesterday which is not repressive but rather preventative and that messages are being sent that large gatherings are not a good idea.

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, 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.

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.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Cakovec Woman, 82, Dies of Heart Attack: Minister Beros - Unrelated to Vaccine

January 5, 2021 – Health Minister Vili Beroš stated that an older woman in Cakovec died of a heart attack the day after receiving the coronavirus vaccine. Beroš said she was negative for coronavirus and her death had nothing to do with the vaccine.

At today's press conference of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, Health Minister Vili Beroš said that an 82-year-old woman from a nursing home in Čakovec died on December 28, 2020, after receiving a coronavirus vaccine the day before. He explained the whole situation.

"After the vaccination on December 27, 2020 between 2 and 4 pm, the lady was checked and was in good condition. The next morning, on December 28, the epidemiologist checked her condition through the head nurse at the nursing home, which was also good. Sometime around 5 pm that day, the lady's clinical condition worsened. An ambulance was called, but the woman died an hour later in the nursing home," said Beroš.

According to the autopsy findings, the patient was negative for coronavirus. She died of cardiac decompensation, i.e., heart failure. The patient was a chronic patient. She had asthma and a probe, a tube that is inserted through the nose for feeding. The patient was lying down and could not walk.

Due to her health condition, especially asthma, the epidemiologist estimated that the person needed to be vaccinated, and she died of a heart attack a day later.

"The Commission in the Ministry of Health has not proven that the cause of death was related to vaccination. Suppose our most vulnerable people are vaccinated, which will sometimes mean patients with high comorbidity. In that case, it is always possible (as has already happened in the world and some neighboring countries) that someone will die without it being related to vaccination," Beroš said.

This event has been reported to the Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices HALMED, as a potential suspicious side effect and will be further evaluated. However, the Commission at the Ministry of Health considers that the patient's death is not related to the coronavirus vaccination.

To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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