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COVID19: Everything you need to know about Cyprus vaccine rollout

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Cyprus expects its first deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines in early January as part of the rollout across Europe with Pfizer/BioNTech arriving first.

The government had hoped for vaccine deliveries by end of December, but the process has taken longer as it is part of the European Union approval and distribution system.

Below the Health Ministry answers frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination rollout
1. Is vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory?
The Government intends is to provide full vaccination coverage of the population since it is a serious public health issue. The vaccine will be provided free of charge to all citizens who so wish.
2. How will Cyprus obtain the vaccines against coronavirus?
The procedure for securing vaccines is carried out through a centralised procedure by the European Union and is common to all Member States. The European Commission has agreed with six pharmaceutical companies, which are now developing vaccines or are in the final stages of the authorisation and circulation of the vaccine.
3. What does the EU’s centralized process guarantee us?
Firstly, through the centralised procedure, we can secure the quantities we need to cover our population at the same time as all the countries of the European Union, regardless of the size of our market and to obtain vaccines at the same cost as them.
As a market with little negotiating power, Cyprus is lagging in terms of accessibility to innovative medicines – as is the vaccine against COVID-19 – but also in terms of the time it procures these medicinal products.
This joint action, therefore, ensures the timely supply of vaccines at significantly lower economic cost than if each state acted individually. It is also especially important because it enables us to know what the flow of vaccines will be. Namely, when the various quantities will be received – a fact that will contribute to the planning for vaccinations.
4. How will vaccines be stored?
As mentioned above, agreements have been signed with six companies using different technologies. Each agreement specifies how vaccines are preserved and stored. The Ministry of Health has taken the necessary steps to ensure the purchase of special refrigerators where necessary, transport boxes, as well as monitoring system.
Their preservation will be centralized; they will be transported to the Pharmacies of the State Health Services Organisation, where they will then be channelled to the 38 vaccination centres in Cyprus or other places where vaccinations may be conducted.
5. When are the first quantities of vaccines expected in Cyprus?
It is important to reiterate that Cyprus will receive the first batch of vaccines, and then all the quantities ordered at the same time as the other EU countries.
The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected at the beginning of January, while in the 1st quarter of 2021, a second batch will be received from the same company.
It is estimated that the first quantities of Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines will also be received in Q1 2021.
The timetable that has been drawn up depends on the final dates to be announced based on the evaluations of each application. We are on alert to adjust the dates so that we can respond accordingly.
6. What are the basic steps for vaccination?
Vaccination will be conducted at Vaccination Centres in Cyprus by health professionals (Visitors/Health Visitors), who have been adequately trained to administer the vaccine to those who want it. There is the ability to operate simultaneously up to 100 different units.
The vaccination will be administered by personal appointment, which can be programmed by the individual or their representative through the Vaccination Program Software.
The person will receive a text message on their mobile phone with the details of the appointment, and there is also the possibility to send a reminder.
Vaccination will be carried out in the Vaccination Centre declared by each citizen and proof of the administration of the 1st dose will be provided either electronically or in paper form (vaccination card). At the same time as the 1st dose is administered, an appointment for the 2nd dose will be arranged.
7. Will the person receiving the vaccine remain confined until the 2nd dose is administered?
No, a citizen who receives the 1st dose of the vaccine does not need to remain confined until the 2nd dose. The standard practice as with any other vaccine will be followed.
8. Will vaccination be repeated at regular intervals or will it be administered only once?
At this stage, we are not able to know. The first volunteers were vaccinated in early summer, so we will not know until after a year has passed. What we do know is that vaccines protect against serious disease, so we aim to reduce hospitalisations and deaths.
9. Which population groups can receive the vaccine?
Each vaccine will have its own characteristics. Some are tested on specific population groups, based on age or other characteristics. Some may be recommended for a certain category of the population and some may not be recommended. The vaccines approved, are approved on the same basis of efficiency and safety criteria.
10. Are there groups that will have priority?
In cooperation with the Scientific Advisory Committee on coronavirus, as well as on the clinical studies conducted by each company, a list has been prepared concerning priority groups of the population that will be invited to receive the vaccine.
The hierarchy is as follows:
1. Residents and staff of care homes and institutions for chronic adult illnesses and
Health professionals: Workers in hospitals with COVID-19 patients, and in all ICU, Accident and Emergency Departments, Ambulance Departments (regardless of COVID hospitalisation).
2. People > 80 years old (priority in vulnerable groups).
3. People > 75 years old (priority in vulnerable groups).
4. Individuals >= 16 years of high risk for severe disease.
5. People working in Primary Health Care Centres, followed by other health professionals/personnel, and residents in other closed structures, such as prisons and hosting centres for refugees and migrants.
6. The rest of the population according to age.
11. When are these groups of the population expected to be vaccinated?
Subject to the completion of procedures for the approval of applications for authorisation and circulation of vaccines by the European Medicines Agency and their distribution to the Member States and without changing the quantities committed to each batch, vaccinations should be conducted as follows:

Category of citizens Total number of citizens Vaccination period
Senior People’s Homes/Institutions for Chronic adult illnesses 2,294 staff January 2021
3,882 residents
Health Professionals(ICU, Accident and Emergency Departments, Ambulance Departments, Hospital Departments with Covid-19 chambers) 1,000 January 2021
Persons > 80 years old 33,530 Vaccination will begin in January 2021 and completed the 1st quarter of 2021
Persons >75 years old 27,667 Q1 2021
Persons >= 16 years of high risk for severe disease   Q1 & Q2 2021

The main goal, if deadlines are kept, is within the first half of 2021 to have completed the vaccination coverage of more than 40% of the Cyprus population, which includes the elderly and people working in care homes, as well as healthcare professionals and people at high risk from a serious illness.
In this way, the protection of these people from possible infection will be achieved while hospitals will be freed of COVID-19 patients and consequently the Health System will be protected.