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COVID19: Cyprus changes vaccine rollout as over 90s miss out

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Cyprus was forced to revise the second stage of its vaccination rollout with a smaller number of vaccines than expected as some of the eldest are being left out.

After vaccinating the majority of elderly people in care homes and their nursing staff, health services moved to phase two of its inoculation program, which includes everyone over 80.

However, the Health Ministry received complaints from people over 90 claiming they were not able to book an appointment on the online platform as slots were taken within an hour of opening each week.

From next week, essentially, the ministry will no longer accept all applications for the over 80s but will instead restrict applications to the over 90s then scale it down to smaller groups such as 88-89, 86-87.

The ministry said the portal will be accepting applications for the over 90s for a period which will be announced later in the week.

It was also noted however that when each age bracket (for example, the 86-87 group) is permitted to apply, any person older than that group will still be eligible to book a vaccination.

“Many people in the over 80 age group have been having difficulty making appointments, hence the necessity to further narrow the age groups,” said the Health Ministry.

In addition to the rational management of vaccines, the aim is to ensure the transparency of the process and a fair distribution of vaccines, while ensuring equal access for those covered by this phase of the National Vaccination Plan.

Around 33,000 people in Cyprus fall within the over 80s category and, the ministry said Tuesday that close to 12,000 have been given the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 832 have received the second dose.

The deputy head of medical services, Olga Kalakouta, told reporters on Monday that more than 50% of people in the over 80s group have either been vaccinated or have booked an appointment for their first of two jabs.

The Health Ministry said that on Monday alone, 1,859 vaccines were administered of which 499 were second-dose vaccines. On Sunday, 333 people in care homes received their second dose.

Last week, pharmaceutical Pfizer-BioNTech said it would be temporarily reducing deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine later this month, spooking governments around the EU.

The latest delivery of the jabs to Cyprus, that arrived Monday, has been halved from 6,825 to 3,510.

Meanwhile, the first batch of 1,200 doses of Moderna vaccines arrived last week from a total of 16,500 jabs before the end of March, and the first vaccine from AstraZeneca should arrive by mid-February.

Pfizer and BioNTech have two contracts with the EU for the supply of up to 600 million doses this year.

They have agreed to deliver 75 million doses in the second quarter and more later in the year. It is unclear how many doses can be distributed in the first three months.

Based on Cyprus’ vaccination plan for COVID-19, the total amount of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines available is 391,637 (divided into 2 doses per person) until the third quarter of 2021.

A Health Ministry announcement said the reduction will not affect the total deliveries scheduled for the first quarter.

It said that inoculations planned for next week will not be affected, nor will it impact on the 3,466 vaccination appointments for inoculation in the week of January 25-29.