Cyprus could return to normalcy by summer, as the vaccination programme that begins on Sunday could take about six months in order to protect a significant part of the population from the coronavirus.
Dr Constantinos Tsioutis, head of the government’s team of experts on the coronavirus outbreak, told the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday that “a very long and difficult road lies ahead” before Cyprus can be declared coronavirus free.
He clarified that the main priority of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to protect people who are more likely to develop a serious illness or to die, and secondly to protect hospitals by bringing down the number of patients needing hospitalisation, reducing deaths and protecting health professionals.
He said that depending on the availability of doses, the vaccination programme will continue with the other groups and “then we will start to see the result of the vaccination, in terms of the transmission of the virus.”
Tsioutis said that the main objective is to vaccinate enough people to be able to lift the restrictive measures, at least until summer.
“The vaccines won’t arrive all at once. It will be a slow process and of course, we will have to have measures in place for quite a while longer. Certainly, as the number of people who are vaccinated increases then the measures will be relaxed accordingly.”
He explained that vaccines will be arriving in batches and it will take a good six months until enough people have been vaccinated.
Tsioutis said that until such time, measures of some sort will be part of our lives.
Public must remain vigilant
“This doesn’t mean that the current measures will remain in force. We need to inform the public, so that they are prepared and remain vigilant,” he said.
Asked whether authorities have calculated the number of people who will object to taking a COVID-19 vaccine, Tsioutis said the government is carrying out studies to assess how many are unlikely to accept the vaccine.
The professor appeared optimistic that people will feel reassured as they see the vaccination programmes in the European Union picking up speed following the same routine as in Cyprus.
Tsioutis added that the Health Ministry would also be launching an awareness campaign.
The professor underlined that “the vaccine has been proven to be effective. In fact, the vaccines that are expected to be approved soon have proven to be even more effective than we had initially estimated.”
Asked about the safety of vaccines, he said that, “so far tens of thousands of volunteers have been vaccinated as part of testing programmes, while hundreds of thousands more people have already been vaccinated, and nothing alarming has been reported”.