Shortfall in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries suspends Bulgaria’s ‘green corridors’

Bulgaria’s health authorities have suspended the “green corridor” system of administering vaccinations against Covid-19 to all who want them because of a shortfall of supply, it was announced at a Health Ministry briefing on February 25.

The suspension comes less than a week after Prime Minister Boiko Borissov ordered the “green corridor” system, to speed up the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations in Bulgaria.

So far, 15 168 people not in categories currently eligible for vaccinations have received the jab via the “green corridor” system.

Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told the briefing that the “green corridor” system would resume when new deliveries arrive.

Angelov singled out AstraZeneca for criticism, saying that the manufacturer had not kept to its commitments.

He said that Bulgaria had received 117 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in February, 333 000 fewer than the company had committed to delivering this month.

“On February 15 we were informed that by the end of the February Bulgaria would receive two deliveries, of 87 000 and 54 000 doses. In fact, we understand that neither of these deliveries will arrive in our country,” Angelov said.

“Yesterday we were surprised to learn that on March 1, Bulgaria will possibly receive 52 800 doses, instead of the expected 142 437 vaccines. Over three days we have had extremely serious talks at various levels with the supplier company in question,” he said.

Acerbically, he addressed himself to AstraZeneca: “We do not need your politeness and courtesy, we need your vaccines. If this is acceptable in your corporate world, in our medical world, there is only black or white – people are either alive or dead”.

“Within two days we expect a reaction and a decision that the lorry will leave for Bulgaria. I call this ‘lack of efficiency’. This is a global crisis that requires efficiency. We said we could send an aircraft, it was sitting and waiting. But there was no answer,” Angelov said.

He said that if the promised 52 800 doses arrive on February 27, they would be distributed immediately.

About 12 000 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived on February 25. “We are also waiting for Pfizer vaccines in March, so I expect things to get better”.

Angelov said that there would be sufficient supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those who had received a first dose of this vaccine to be able to receive a second. “The second dose is given after 10 weeks and it is ensured,” he said.

He told the briefing that the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Bulgaria had been increasing in the past three days, but at the same time, there was a “clear and distinct” trend of an increase in the number of people vaccinated.

This included more than 20 000 in the past 24 hours, he said.

Angelov denied that it was the opening of “green corridors” that had compromised the pace of vaccination, saying the blame lay with non-compliance with vaccine delivery arrangements.

According to Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev, Bulgaria had a morbidity rate of 156 per 100 000 population, which placed it 22nd in the European Union. The country’s mortality rate was 8.27 per 100 000, meaning Bulgaria was in 14th place in the EU.

Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, head of the national operational headquarters against Covid-19, said that on a seven-day basis, things were not optimistic. On a seven-day basis, the incidence was 216 out of 100 000 population.

“However, the reporting is on a 14-day basis,” he said, adding that it would take another week to see if that figure would prove a lasting trend.

“There is an exponential increase in morbidity. Twenty-six per cent increase in cases compared to last Thursday.

Mortality even decreased by seven per cent, now it is 7.01 per cent of 100 000 people. A week ago it was 8.5 per 100 thousand,” he said.

Occupancy of beds for Covid-19 patients not in need of emergency care was 47 per cent while intensive care beds were at 51 per cent occupancy, he said. Beds were running short at hospitals including the Military Medical Academy and Pirogov, but there was spare capacity at other hospitals.

Angelov, asked if restaurants would be forced to close a week after their March 1 re-opening, said that the situation was under control and there was no reason for concern.

(Photo: Sofia municipality)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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