After almost reaching the June target of vaccinating 65% of the eligible population with a COVID-19 jab, Cyprus is pushing for a higher threshold to achieve herd immunity against aggressive variants.
“Given that new, more aggressive strains of the virus will continue to appear, causing increased transmission and more serious disease, especially among unvaccinated people, there is a need to increase immunity,” said the Health Ministry on Thursday.
It said the government would be doing everything possible to increase the vaccination rate as Cyprus returns to normal and becoming a safe tourist destination depends on it.
Reaching herd immunity requires that at least 80% of a country’s population is fully vaccinated to protect it against variants.
So far, health authorities have inoculated 64.6% with one COVID jab, and 50.2% are fully vaccinated.
Outgoing Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou and President Nicos Anastasiades have urged younger people to get vaccinated as 70% of those under 40 have not had a jab.
The state health services organisation (OKYPY) said hospital patients are becoming younger, with many aged 18 to 30.
An OKYPY spokesperson said: “The youngest patient this week was a 17-year-old woman treated in the COVID ward at Limassol General Hospital with thrombosis”.
Young patients can end up in the high dependency unit or ICU.
According to health ministry data, just 28.5% of people aged 18-19 have had a jab; for those aged 20 to 29, it’s 36.5%, and 30 to 39, it’s 53.5%.
Jab coverage rises with age; those aged 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69 have vaccination rates of 73.4%, 72.3% and 82.2%, respectively.
Some 91.7% aged 70 to 79 have been vaccinated, while the rate for over 80s stands at 92.2%.
After one in three cases reported recently are teenagers between 15 and 18, the ministry expanded the vaccination rollout to cover 16 and 17-year-olds on Wednesday.
Some 2,200 appointments were booked for teenagers under the age of 18.
At a district level, Paphos still leads, with 73.8% of its inhabitants being vaccinated with at least one dose, followed by Nicosia’s 65.9% and Famagusta with 65.5%.
Limassol’s rate stands at a lower 62%, and Larnaca is last with only 60.1% vaccine coverage.