No-shows slow pace of vaccination against Covid-19 in Bulgaria

People who register to receive vaccinations against Covid-19 and then fail to keep their appointments are slowing the pace of immunisation in Bulgaria, health authorities say.

The head of the Pirogov emergency hospital in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, Professor Assen Baltov, told a Health Ministry briefing on February 18 that of those on the lists forwarded by the regional health inspectorate of people who had stated they wanted to be vaccinated, only about 30 per cent actually appeared.

Baltov said that, in line with the order by Health Minister Kostadin Angelov, five vaccination points had been set up at Pirogov, with the possibility to deploy two mobile teams.

He said that it had made a bad impression that, in the first days after the vaccination points were set up, “for example, of 170 people who had stated they want to be vaccinated, no more than 50 turn up”.

“This problem immediately has an impact on people who expect to come for vaccination. Because, for example, today we are requesting to vaccinate 500 people. Of those 500 people, 30 per cent actually come,” Baltov said.

“This turns out to be a big problem not only for us, but also for the motivation and pace of vaccination,” he said.

Baltov said that Professor Krassimir Gigov, head of the national vaccination headquarters, had been asked to agree to starting the fourth phase of vaccination “because we see that there are many people who want to be vaccinated, but in reality they are waiting for the second and third phases (to finish)”.

“At the same time, phase two people say they want to be vaccinated and then do not come. This is a problem for us because we are ready to work with our teams much more intensively, including Saturdays and Sundays,” Baltov said.

Health Minister Angelov also highlighted the problem, in remarks to the media during a visit to Vratsa on February 17.

Angelov said that he was not satisfied with the rate of vaccination against Covid-19, pointing to people not showing up for vaccination appointments as among the reasons.

He described the behaviour of some GPs as a bad practice, advising their patients not to be vaccinated: “For me as a doctor, this is incomprehensible, because every lost human life is a loss for the whole country.

“In this sense, the strategy of waiting for our mistrust to turn into trust is wrong. We, the doctors, have taken an oath to protect human life and to rely on science in our decisions. Science today says that vaccines are safe and will guarantee our normal lives when we vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the population,” a Health Ministry media statement quoted Angelov as saying.

The fourth phase includes people older than 65, people with chronic concomitant illnesses and people with immune system malfunctions.

Angelov said that the module in the national information system for those who want to register to be immunised would start working at the beginning of March at the latest.

The system will allow each individual, regardless of where in the country the person is, to choose the vaccination point to receive the jab.

Angelov told the February 18 briefing that while the increase in Covid-19 cases was being monitored, it was a good sign that medical institutions were not under pressure.

“This allows us to continue confidently with the plan we are following,” he said, referring to analysis of the figures on a 14-day basis, followed by decisions whether to ease the measures.

Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev told the briefing that on a 14-day basis, Bulgaria had a morbidity rate of 127.4 per 100 000 population, placing the country 25th in the European Union-European Economic Area.

Kunchev said that Bulgaria’s Covid-19 mortality rate, also on a 14-day basis, was 7.3 per 100 000 population, putting it in 15th place in the EU-EEA.

Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, head of the national operational HQ against Covid-19, said that the number of cases was increasing, “we are at the levels (of morbidity) of October 22 last year, but the curve is still not so sharp and there is no exponential increase”.

The mortality rate corresponded to that on November 5 last year, he said.

Medicines Agency head Bogdan Kirilov said that it was expected that by the end of February, about 240 000 doses of vaccines would arrive. About 57 600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Bulgaria on February 19.

Preliminary expectations are that more than 500 000 doses of vaccines would arrive in March, which would speed up the vaccination process, Kirilov said.

(Photo: Bulgaria’s Military Medical Academy)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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