Cyprus took delivery Saturday of a pair of medical freezers that will store the first batch of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, with the vaccination expected to commence on December 27, in line with a pan-European programme.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades will be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to raise awareness and support a national vaccination programme.
The Health Ministry said that each freezer can store up to 130,000 doses at temperatures of -75C and were purchased as part of an agreement between the European Commission and the manufacturer.
The freezers are made in Japan by PHCbi, formerly Panasonic Healthcare and have a list price of €14,700 each plus shipping.
Costas Heimonas, a senior official at the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services, said that “the freezers provide all the safety features to protect [the vaccines] on a 24-hour basis.”
He said that the vaccines will be stored centrally and will be distributed to 38 vaccination centres that will be designated throughout Cyprus.
The vaccination programme, starting with the elderly aged over 80, front-line medical workers and vulnerable groups above 75 years old, will pick the recipients through an algorithm and will be informed electronic messaging.
Based on the national vaccination plan for COVID-19, the total amount of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines available for Cyprus is 391,637 (divided into 2 doses per person) until the third quarter of 2021.
A quantity of 48,955 will be distributed this month which corresponds to vaccinating 24,477 people.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced on Thursday that Cyprus will join the EU’s “vaccination days” programme on December 27.
He retweeted a comment by the Commission President adding that “awaiting approval from the EMA, we will start vaccinations [in Cyprus] on 27/12 together with the rest of the EU countries.”
He said this was the “beginning of the end”.
EC chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the Union-wide programme called #EUvaccinationdays.
She said that conditional on EMA approval, that “it’s Europe’s moment. On 27, 28 and 29 December vaccination will start across the EU.
Von der Leyen: “We are #StrongerTogether”
“We protect our citizens together. We are #StrongerTogether,” she declared in her tweet.
Ioannou had said earlier in the week that Cyprus “will be receiving its fair share of the vaccines at the same time with the rest of the European Union”.
Deputy head of the state medical services Olga Kalakouta had said an online logistic system will be introduced to monitor the vaccination process that will take place in 38 centres at a rate of 350 a day.
Kalakouta said that vaccinations will take place only by appointment. People will receive an SMS with the date and the place they are to be vaccinated. The portal will also remind people of the date of the second dose.
Priority will be given to staff and residents of care homes, people with chronic diseases and front-line healthcare professionals.
Cyprus expects an initial delivery of 168,000 doses, the first 48,000 from Pfizer-BioNTech, then regular deliveries of vaccines every three months.
In total, Cyprus has ordered 3 mln doses from AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sanofi & Glaxo, Curevac, Moderna, Novavax and Janssen, with each vaccine requiring two shots for immunity (apart from Janssen).
Delivery of vaccine doses is expected until the second quarter of 2022 for AstraZeneca.