COVID19: Cyprus to use AstraZeneca for over 65s

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Unlike several EU counterparts, Cyprus will use the AstraZeneca vaccine, once receiving it, on the general population including those aged 65 and above.

Assistant Professor in Pharmacology, University of Nicosia Medical School, Christos Petrou told state CyBC TV the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approves all vaccines for the EU, approved AstraZeneca for adults of all ages over 18.

He said Germany and France’s decision not to administrate the AstraZeneca vaccine to people older than 65 was based on the fact they have enough vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to cover those groups.

Petrou, a member of the Cyprus vaccination program said the rollout will proceed with vaccines as they arrive due to the lack of resources, suggesting Cyprus doesn’t have the luxury to pick and choose.

“Resources are limited, there is a big pool of people in these age groups. Vaccinations have yet to reach people in the age group of 75 to 80.”

Cyprus health authorities moved on to vaccinating people over 83 years of age on Wednesday.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should be prioritized for people younger than 65, according to recommendations by government advisory bodies in France, Germany and Sweden and Italy while Poland set its threshold at 60.

The five countries issued the recommendations, even though the EU’s regulator cleared the vaccine for all adults.

“When resources are limited, then vaccinating more people with a potentially less effective vaccine, has been proven to be more efficient than vaccinating a small group with a more potent one,” said Petrou.

The philosophy behind the vaccination program was questioned by other members of the pharmaceutical society.

Assistant Professor in Pharmacology, at the Medical School of the University of Cyprus, Nikolas Dietis cautioned against using AstraZeneca for the elderly, saying the vaccine has shown to have lower efficacy.

“The Ministry of Health must come up with a plan so that vulnerable groups of the population are vaccinated with vaccines of higher efficacy,” Dietis told the Cyprus News Agency.

Dietis argued the AstraZeneca vaccine only covers six out of 10 people, adding that despite the shortage of doses of the Pfizer vaccine, we should not vaccinate the elderly with the AstraZeneca and thus increase their risk.

Health Ministry spokesperson Margarita Kyriacou told the Financial Mirror: “The Health Ministry is in line with the instructions given by the European Medicine Agency. To date they have not issued any warning against administrating the vaccine for any age group”.

Kyriacou confirmed that 19,000 people have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, of which 5,500, mainly residents at homes and frontline health workers, have had the second jab.

Cyprus receives some 6,800 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech weekly with another 2,400 vaccines expected from Moderna this week.

The first batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine should arrive next week with Cyprus expecting 69,000 doses within February.