COVID19: Cyprus delays 7,500 AstraZeneca jabs

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Cyprus’ decision to suspend COVID-19 inoculations using the AstraZeneca vaccine has disrupted 7,500 appointments for first and second jabs, a Health Ministry official said on Tuesday.

This will be a major setback for the national vaccination plan that has reached 116,331 people, of whom 31,968 have already received a second jab.

The target was to vaccinate 200,000 people by the end of the month and 60% of the entire population by June.

The Health Ministry said that inoculations with the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines would continue as planned.

Health Ministry spokesperson Margarita Kyriakou said the suspended vaccinations will be rescheduled as soon as an opinion is received from the European Medicines Agency on Thursday over the investigation into 40 cases of blood clots in people who had received the vaccine.

A cascading number of European countries — including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain — suspended use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and international regulators say there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

Media reports speculated that there might be one case of a person vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab showing side effects. Still, health officials have said that those who have received this vaccine are being monitored.

The Cyprus Health Ministry issued an announcement on Monday saying it was decided “to temporarily suspend the inoculations in Cyprus with the AstraZeneca vaccine until Thursday” in anticipation of the opinion of the EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC).

Elena Panayiotopoulou, deputy director of the ministry’s medical services, said people “should not worry.”

She told ANT1 TV news that no blood coagulation directly linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine had been reported in Cyprus, adding that 17 mln people have already received the jab, of which only 40 had thromboembolic events.

Earlier, the EMA said, “the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects, and therefore it can continue to be administered while the investigation is ongoing.”

50,000 orders for Sputnik V

Meanwhile, the Cyprus government announced that it will order 50,000 of the Russian-made Sputnik V if and when EMA approves it.

Government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos told state broadcaster CyBC that the decision was made a fortnight ago.

He added that Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou is dealing with the matter, and as soon as the EMA approves the vaccine, Cyprus will go ahead with the order, which could increase depending on demand and availability.