Cyprus is forging ahead with its vaccination program, reaching the over 75s after vaccinating nearly 5% of the population including care home residents and frontline health workers.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told a news conference Friday that 41,673 people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, of which 14,105 have received both doses.
Cyprus – with a population of 900,000 – has moved to stage three of its vaccination program which includes people over 75 and health workers.
Concerns from senior citizens and the medical community were raised over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those over 65.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the cornerstone of Cyprus’ vaccination rollout, as 1.2 mln out of a total of 3.5 mln doses are to come from the UK-Swedish pharmaceutical.
Ioannou said the government’s decision to continue vaccinations without age restrictions was based on recommendations made by the European Medicine Agency.
He pointed out that 27 scientists representing EU member states, participating in EMA, decided the AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to everyone aged over 18.
Cyprus’ decision to push ahead with vaccinating the elderly with AstraZeneca was vindicated on Wednesday when the World Health Organisation said it had found it safe to use for people over 65.
“The effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine has not been challenged by any official authority in any country, on the contrary, it is given to millions of elderly people in the UK, where there is a sharp decline in (COVID) patients,” Ioannou said.
“This confirms our choice to vaccinate the elderly first, protecting them from serious illness and death.”
An estimated 15 million elderly people in the UK have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab.
As people will be informed which vaccine they are to receive, Ioannou warned those who choose to wait to be inoculated with a different vaccine, might risk delaying their vaccination.
“There is no room for rejection of one vaccine over another.”
He said in the coming weeks, scheduled deliveries from Pfizer and Moderna’s will be in small quantities meaning it will not be possible to immediately meet the needs of everyone choosing to be vaccinated with these instead of AstraZeneca.
Ioannou reminded the public that the goal of the National Vaccination Plan is to protect vulnerable groups, including the elderly, “who are more vulnerable to the virus and the group most at risk at being hospitalized”.
“Unfortunately, the facts speak for themselves, 182 of our fellow citizens from a total of 218, that is 83%, who died from COVID-19 were aged 70 and over, the average age of death is 79.”
Since the outbreak, about half of the cases treated in Intensive Care Units were 70 or over. Currently, the average age of COVID-19 patients is 64 and the average age in ICU is 66.