Vaccination in Bulgaria Stalls, Vaccines Are in Deficit Worldwide

Health | February 9, 2021, Tuesday // 12:29|  views

On the verge of a third wave of mutant strains of Covid-19 and problems with the supply of agreed vaccines, the European Union reports a serious problem with the vaccination of the population and already mulls purchasing other vaccines - the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinopharm.

"Europe must unite to accelerate its vaccination campaign with the support of all laboratories," WHO Director for Europe Hans Kluge urged on Friday.

During his visit to Moscow, the EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he hoped the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would approve the Russian Sputnik vaccine against Covid-19.

A number of countries have already included a wider range of vaccines in their vaccination plan, and some have even proposed producing them on their territory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wakes up at night to think about the fateful decisions she must make in a bid to tackle the new coronavirus pandemic.

Merkel, who is a scientist by education and is known for her hard-nosed and business-like approach, has come under pressure in recent weeks because of the slow progress of the vaccination campaign in Germany and the EU, compared to Britain, the US and Israel.

The country is already considering moving the production facilities of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine closer to its own borders or to some other European countries, German Health Minister Jens Span announced.

The Russian side has been asked for such support and the idea is being considered in Germany and Europe, Span said at an online conference organized by leading German news outlets.

Serbia will also invest as much as necessary to start production of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine by the end of the year, President Aleksandar Vucic announced. Serbia is already using it. Along with EU-approved vaccines, the country also has the Chinese Sinovak vaccine and is now fourth in the world after Israel, Britain and the US invaccination rates. Our western neighbor has so far administered over 530,000 vaccine doses, which means that nearly 7.5% of the population are inoculated.

"Serbia's success in vaccination is due, among other things, to the fact that, unlike Western countries, the country has made efforts to secure vaccines from all producers," says Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar.

In Bulgaria, those who recieved the first jab are less than 60,000 given two types of vaccines used - Pfizer and Moderna. This ranks us in the last place in vaccination of the population in the EU. It is 5 times lower than the EU average.

Over 107 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been placed worldwide so far, according to data from the scientific information site World in Data, as 41.41 million of them are administered in Asia with a major contribution from China with 24 million vaccines. Next up is North America with 35.63 million doses placed thanks to the US - 33.88 million. Europe ranks third with 26.84 million doses, the champion being the UK.

The EU has concluded three more contracts for the supply of vaccines with three companies. These are the vaccines of Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson and CureVac, which are awaiting approval for use in the EU.

For the vaccine of the French pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi and the British GSK, the European Union has placed an order for 300 million doses, and for that of Johnson & Johnson, which is administered once, the order is for 200 million.

The EC is also in exploratory talks about two other vaccines - Novavax and Valneva. The first manufacturer is expected to supply 100 million doses, and then another 100 million. The second vaccine provides for the possibility for all EU countries to purchase initially 30 million euro. doses, and then another 30 million.

Final accounts show that the EU has put the most stakes on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is still on its way to the countries of the Union, besides it is also recommended for people under 65.

And recently, the company said it was cutting supplies by 60% because of manufacturing problems.

Why is Bulgaria lagging behind in vaccinations?

Since the start of the vaccination campaign on 27 December, Bulgaria has been in the last place.

Our country has ordered 18 million vaccines from seven manufacturers to be delivered by the end of the year, but the worrying questions are when they will be available, is the immunization plan good and how it is implemented.

Our country's biggest order is for AstraZeneca vector vaccine which is significantly cheaper than Pfizer RNA vaccines and Moderna and easier to transport and store, but s far we have only just received the first shipment of 28,000 doses. Meanwhile, other EU countries have ordered enough of all types of vaccines and can now step up the immunization campaign.

However, it's not just these deliveries that pose a problem.

"Bulgaria plans to vaccinate 30% of the population by the end of September, at the same time Spain plans vaccination of 70% of the population for the same period, Denmark plans to have vaccinated everyone by the end of the summer. We are currently lagging tenfold behind some EU member states. Take for example Romania - three days ago 48,000 Romanians were vaccinated, in one day (data are for January 28) 655 people were vaccinated, i.e. relative to these data we are lagging behind nearly 10 times, and 5 times compared to the EU average", says MEP from the Health Committee of the EP Petar Vitanov.

"Germany has purchased vaccines from Pfizer. Yes, it is more expensive, it is more difficult to store and logistically it is more difficult to manage, only its timely use saves lives. We opted for the cheapest, it will come last and we seem to ignore the health of our fellow citizens", Vitanov was adamant.

Will Bulgaria make up for lost time?

"Bulgaria's vaccination plan must be redesigned with regard to the freedom of choice for vaccinating - those who want to have a jab should be given the opportunity to get vaccinated immediately. We also need to think about a way to sell vaccines on the free market," says Arkady Sharkov, a healthcare economist.

Due to an uncertain delivery schedule, Bulgaria is also holding back vaccines to prevent shortages when a second dose of the vaccine is given - this is another explanation for the slow and cumbersome vaccination in Bulgaria.

However, for this reason the vaccination process can be accelerated with the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Recent research has shown that the best effect with it is achieved if the period between the first and second dose is up to two and a half months.

"If so, I think it is justified and if we have guarantees for regular deliveries, we may give up this way and start administering all the first vaccine doses rewceived with the idea that we will have enough quantities in two months to complete vaccination, which will significantly speed up the process", says the Chief State Health Inspector Dr. Angel Kunchev.

In our country to date, the vaccinated with a first dose are a little over 57,000 people.

Both Greece and Romania are doing better than us. Greek authorities plan to vaccinate the majority of the population before the start of the summer season. More than 200,000 have been vaccinated so far. But even if 200,000 people get vaccinated each month, only 2 million out of almost 10 will be vaccinated by summer. According to the EC, vaccination will continue until the end of the year, but this is not certain.

For now, however, 43 percent of Bulgarians say they would not get vaccinated, 22 per cent - worried that the vaccine may not be safe, and 12 percent are worried about side effects. Some people do not have enough information, and 8% of Bulgarians believe that they will be infected, die or simply harm their health, according to the survey of Trend polling agency, having in mind that 70 percent of the population has to be inoculated for achieving the so-called “herd immunity”.




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Tags: Bulgaria, vaccination campaign


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