COVID19: Cyprus President gets ‘gift of life’

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President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a health centre in Nicosia, calling the vaccination a “gift of life” for Cyprus.

Following his vaccination, the President said there is now hope that the pandemic, which overturned peoples’ normal lives and livelihoods will finally come to an end.

Exiting the health centre, Anastasiades thanked “the scientific community for the vaccine, the doctors, the nurses, all front-line health workers – and all the people for their sacrifices of course – who have brought us to the point where we can count down defeating of the invisible enemy”.

Noting that there is still a long way to go until the final victory, he said Cypriots must continue taking protective measures and complying with government decrees.

Anastasiades appealed to all those who have concerns to overcome their doubts about the vaccine, saying that solidarity is needed.

“I want to appeal to those who have doubts or concerns about the vaccine. There is no disease that is not treated with medication or vaccine.”

He said everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and decide with free will whether to be vaccinated or not.

“The vaccine will protect us and strengthen not just our hope but the right to life”.

He further expressed confidence that normalcy will return in 2021.

The government is arranging to cover the entire population of the Republic, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

“The Technical Committee on health is in consultation, it is a matter of the necessary infrastructure that must exist in the occupied part of our country so that Turkish Cypriots can be supplied with the vaccines,” Anastasiades said.

Jumping the queue

There has been a public reaction over high-ranking civil servants jumping the queue to get the COVID-19 jab.

Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry Christina Yiannaki and the CEO of the state health services organisation (OKYPY) Christos Loizides were among the first to be vaccinated.

Health Ministry sources confirmed to the Financial Mirror that there is no protocol covering the vaccination of high-ranking state officers.

“President Anastasiades was vaccinated in more of a symbolic move as he is the head of the state while he also falls into one of the categories of people who are to be first in line for a jab,” said a Health Ministry official.

Cyprus’ inoculation program kicked-off on Sunday, after the first batch of 9,750 vaccines were received on Saturday.

Health Ministry sources say Cyprus will receive another 6,800 doses before the end of the year with vaccinations conducted as planned.

First in line to get the jab are the elderly aged over 80, with priority given to people at nursing homes, and front-line medical workers. Vulnerable groups above 75 years old are next in line.

There are over 66,000 people aged over 80.

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 was expected to be distributed within the next 30 days according to the Ministry’s action plan, which corresponds to vaccinating 24,477 people.

Cyprus will then receive the first batch of 20,000 doses of the 157,000 vaccines ordered from Moderna.

The health services expect to receive 1,192,043 doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, once it is approved, through to mid-2022.

The authorities have ordered a total of 3 million doses which correspond to 1.5 million people.

Cyprus included the Turkish Cypriot community in its vaccine orders.

Asked on how the program will work, health ministry sources said that, with the exception of the elderly living in homes, to which letters of consent were sent out earlier last week, an online platform will be launched to cater to the rest.

People wanting to book an appointment to get vaccinated will be prompted to select the vaccination centre of their preference.

They will later receive a confirmation email and SMS with the date, time, and place where they are to be inoculated.

The Health Ministry issued regulations determining the vaccination process with recipients also getting a special card as proof of their vaccination.

Recipients must book a date for their second dose.

The Health Ministry said initial reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be sensitivity in the area of the injection, swelling, rash, shivers, exhaustion, headache, nausea, muscular and joint pains, fever swelling of adenoids.

It said these symptoms, if any, should not last longer than a week and a GP must be informed.

Cyprus has reported 19,657 cases and 111 deaths.