Around 4,000 AstraZeneca slots had been booked by early Thursday morning following the reopening of the vaccination portal for those aged 61 and over, amid hesitancy over the specific vaccine despite assurances from EU and Cypriot health experts.
The portal opened on Wednesday morning, only to crash three minutes later with all available Pfizer and Moderna slots snapped up. By the time it reopened at 5pm, only AstraZeneca vaccines were left, around 15,000.
Close to 19,400 vaccines were made available at the time for 25,000 eligible people, but AstraZeneca’s popularity has been dwindling over the past few weeks due to reported links with very rare blood clots.
The European Medicines Agency on Wednesday it had found possible links but reiterated that the benefits of the vaccines outweighed the risks and did not issue any new guidelines.
Following this announcement, the Health Ministry announced that the national vaccination plan would continue with all available licensed vaccines, with the message that what matters is getting vaccinated, not which vaccine to get.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Margarita Kyriakou told Cybc that by early on Thursday morning, about 4,000 AstraZeneca slots were booked.
In a meeting with his EU counterparts on Wednesday evening following EMA’s announcement, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou had argued that the way the AstraZeneca vaccine has been handled by many European countries is confusing and upsetting to the public.
As a result, the national vaccination programme is delayed, which could “paralyse” Europe if a sufficient percentage of the population is not vaccinated as restrictive measures would remain in place, he said.
President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday that the government has ordered vaccines for two million people, which include Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson, while the Health Minister has been authorised to negotiate a supply of the Sputnik V vaccine as soon as it is approved by the EMA.
He said the government and the epidemiologists are not currently looking into a third lockdown scenario, based on Cyprus’ epidemiological outlook.