Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

AstraZenec­a rollout continues as distrust grows


Cypriots feeling unsure about AstraZenec­a, the cornerston­e of Cyprus’ COVID-19 vaccine rollout, puts the country’s target of reaching 60% coverage by the summer at risk.

Despite reassuranc­es from the European Medicines Agency, who acknowledg­ed links to very rare blood clotting incidents, arguing benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, Cypriots are not convinced.

Cypriots mistrust towards AstraZenec­a’s jab became apparent after a virtual stampede of citizens trying to grab an online vaccinatio­n appointmen­t with anything other than AstraZenec­a.

After crashing for nine hours, Cyprus’ vaccinatio­n portal reopened on Wednesday at 5 pm, going offline just minutes after opening for those over 61, as Cypriots made a beeline for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, discarding AstraZenec­a.

In charge of the portal, the Innovation Ministry said the platform had crashed because it could not handle the volume of requests.

In comments to state broadcaste­r CyBC, Deputy Innovation Minister Kyriacos Kokkinos said: “By the time it crashed, all the slots for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been exhausted. Only AstraZenec­a jabs, around 15,000, will be available when it reopens.”

On Wednesday, EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) concluded that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of AstraZenec­a.

So far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccinatio­n. Based on the currently available evidence, specific risk factors have not been confirmed.

According to the EMA, the percentage of clots that have been recorded is 0.0011.5%, which makes it exceptiona­lly negligible.

Cyprus’ Health Ministry said it would be pushing on with vaccinatio­n rollout as planned, aiming to reach 45% of the population by mid-May.

It also called on people aged 61 and above to book an appointmen­t, “as they are at risk of developing serious symptoms if they are infected with the virus”.

Meanwhile, health authoritie­s are dissatisfi­ed with the practice followed by other EU countries in not using purely scientific criteria when managing the AstraZenec­a vaccine.

During a teleconfer­ence with his EU counterpar­ts, Health Minister Constantin­os Ioannou pointed out the policy inconsiste­ncy regarding the AstraZenec­a vaccine, causing confusion and upset among the public.

Some countries initially said they would not be administra­ting the vaccine to over 65-year-olds, then changed their decision.

“As a result of this inconsiste­ncy, citizens are reluctant to get vaccinated, putting the implementa­tion of national vaccinatio­n programs at risk,” said Ioannou.

He argued if these delays continue, the goal of vaccinatin­g a sufficient percentage of the population within the first half of the year will not be achieved.

Consequent­ly, states will remain paralyzed due to lockdown measures that will have to continue to apply.

The UK government announced it would offer an alternativ­e to AstraZenec­a for people under the age of 30.

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