Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Featured

Coronavirus: Government criticised over vaccine choice and rollout


Cyprus’ coronavirus vaccination programme found itself at the centre of domestic political infighting on Thursday, with opposition parties blasting the government for bad planning and Disy countering that vaccinations were proceeding apace, and on schedule.

Vaccine purchases for EU member states are being coordinated by the European Commission which has drawn its share of criticism for apparent delays in the approval and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, seen as essential to exiting protracted lockdowns.

After a slow start to the vaccine roll out due to production problems, vaccinations in Cyprus have picked up speed, with some 90,000 jabs administered so far. Authorities hope half the population will be vaccinated by summer.

But as coronavirus cases remain stubbornly high, there has been increased pressure on authorities to step up the pace, including by obtaining supplies from outside the EU, notably Russia and China whose vaccines have not yet sought or obtained EU approval.

The health ministry says no such supplies are available. And it has clarified that in the absence of local expertise, Cyprus relies on vaccines which have been vetted and approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

According to the Cyprus News Agency, Thursday’s committee meeting was heated. Opposition MPs questioned the procedures followed and complained that the health ministry was not being transparent about its delivery schedule.

They also wanted to know why Cyprus had ordered such as large quantity of AstraZeneca vaccines, which some EU countries had initially opted not to administer to older people.

Head of the EU Commission representation in Nicosia Ierotheos Papadopoulos said that the EU’s first contract was for 200 million AstraZeneca vaccines signed in August 2020 which were offered to member states according to their population size. The second contract was with Pfizer in November.

The aim was to buy vaccines from the companies expected to move the fastest, he said.

Acting head of the ministry’s health services Olga Kalakouta said that the vaccination programme was on schedule. So far 90,000 people have received at least one jab and as from this week, 4000 people are being vaccinated daily. Vaccines are made immediately available on delivery, with the second dose stored for use later.

She noted that with the recent presentation of data showing that AstraZeneca was 80 per cent effective from the first dose among people aged over 70, countries such as France had changed tack and were making it available to people over 65 with underlying conditions.

Disy MP Efthymios Diplaros said numbers spoke for themselves and the target of vaccinating half the population by summer was feasible.

Cyprus had taken part in EU deliberations and had secured doses for two million people, using all resources made available to it.

“How many vaccines would we have taken delivery of if we were not in the EU?” he queried.

But Akel’s Yiorgos Georgiou said the government had failed to secure vaccines from third countries, as a few other EU countries have done. And he questioned whether the ministry’s concerns as regards its vaccination orders was protecting public health or the EU health commissioner – a reference to former Disy MP and current commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

People are concerned and are paying the cost of the crisis, he added.

Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas echoed the need to speed up vaccinations as the economy was on its knees.

“The question remains unanswered. Why did the Republic of Cyprus choose the AstraZeneca vaccine? Unfortunately, no reply was given. However, all sides stressed the urgent need to speed up procedures to find vaccines,” he said.

Related Posts

Environmental groups sound alarm over Akamas

George Psyllides

Kalopanayiotis gets into the Christmas spirit

Eleni Philippou

Coronavirus: Rapid testing sites for eligible groups on Thursday

Evie Andreou

Larnaca salt lake welcomes first flamingos

Jonathan Shkurko

Coronavirus: SMS reminder for booster jab

Evie Andreou

Coronavirus: Cabinet to consider new measures as cases surge

Nick Theodoulou