The decision taken yesterday by Germany’s Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) to allow the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged over 65 years old was met with strong reactions domestically as a result of the bad reputation built up for the vaccine through the early statements issued by German officials downplaying the efficacy of the specific jab.
A few days before the decision, a similar one was issued in France which changed its approach to the vaccine and is moving full speed ahead with administering it to vulnerable groups. We should note here that according to the latest data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Germany’s storerooms are stocked with over two million AstraZeneca vaccines, which remain unavailable amid a climate of disorganization and suspicion in the world's most industrialized country, at a time when the company is said to be delivering one million vaccines a week to the country.
How, then, did little Cyprus, with limited knowledge and tradition in this field of science, decide from the outset to make the vaccine in question available to those over the age of 65 and is it justified under the circumstances? Who are these public officials or scientists who wandered off the beaten track and made the courageous decision to not rely on the ‘safety’ of hiding behind the popular demand of social media users and the misguided decisions initially taken by France, Germany, Spain and Greece to ignore the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) recommendation and prohibit its administration to those most in need, which are those over 65 years of age. We do not have an answer to the above question, although we are sure that in the coming years this particular issue will occupy dissertations, analyses and documentaries. What we are sure of is that the specific decision of the Cypriot Ministry of Health has statistically already prevented the deaths of some dozen elderly members of our society.
An indirect answer to the above questions was given by the Director of Medical Services Olga Kalakouta, through data submitted before the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 4. According to Kalakouta, 84% of those aged over 80 have already been vaccinated, while the Ministry is now proceeding with home vaccinations for these age groups. Kalakouta said that this week, Cyprus will surpass the threshold of 100,000 first-dose vaccinations, exceeding 10% of the population. If one brings to the equation the fact that the average age of coronavirus deaths in the country is 79 years, one realizes the significance of Kalakouta’s statements, who in closing gave another important statistic: Cyprus is vaccinating over 4,000 people per day, approaching the statistical milestone of 4,350 vaccinations per day required to cover 70% of the population by the end of the summer, a goal set by the European Commission. A goal that, based on current data and the expected increased vaccine flows in the second quarter of the year, will likely be more than achieved.
Based on the current data, therefore, in this battle against the pandemic, our country is showing a level of composure, scientific knowledgeability, determination and organization, characteristics that seem to be absent today from much larger countries. We have to record this and evaluate it.
PS. The Ministry of Health and the government must provide daily vaccination statistics for Cyprus by updating international databases. The country's vaccination progress and its communication abroad is the passport to economic recovery but also a move toward restoring the credibility and image damaged due to other reasons.