Health Minister: Bulgaria may stop giving AstraZeneca vaccine if interest drops further

Interest among Bulgarians in receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 has dropped significantly, according to statements on April 12 by the country’s Health Minister and its Chief State Health Inspector.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been cleared by the European Medicines Agency for continued use, though the agency has directed that the production information must be updated to add the very rare risk of blood clotting problems.

In various places in Bulgaria, there are “green corridors” for all comers, offering the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In Sofia, at Tsaritsa Joanna Hospital, a “green corridor” was open this past Saturday. In the course of the day, 10 doses were administered, according to media reports that day.

Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told a briefing on April 12 that if interest in the AstraZeneca vaccine drops completely, they would be withdrawn and stored in refrigerators.

“In accordance with the contracts that we have with the European Commission, we will decide what to do with them.”

Earlier, speaking to Radio Sofia, Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said that there was a “significant outflow” of Bulgarians wanted to be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which now has the brand name Vaxzevria.

Kunchev said that theoretically it should be possible to administer a second dose from a different vaccine.

He said that immunisation is important for the body, no matter how it causes the formation of antibodies against the virus. So far, however, it has not been practice to change vaccines and it is not known how effective and long-lasting such immunity would be, Kunchev said.

Angelov said that Bulgaria’s three expert councils would be consulted on the issue, and asked to answer two important questions, one, what to do about those people who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca, the second, what to do about people who continue to want that vaccine.

He said that, speaking as a doctor, he believed in all the approved vaccines.

Angelov told the briefing that on April 12, several logistical issues were being discussed .

The first was the queues of general practitioners in front of the Sofia regional health inspectorate coming to collect doses of vaccines.

An algorithm would be developed to improve the logistics of this, Angelov said.

The second problem was with getting doses of vaccines to remote places in the country. Earlier, it was agreed that Interior Ministry vehicles would be used to deliver vaccines from the regional health inspectorate to GPs in remote places.

Asked about the chaos in the information system for recording an appointment for vaccination, Angelov said that he expects a proposal from Informatsionno Obsluzhvane, the state-owned IT company that developed the system, to solve the problems.

On April 12, a total of 62 010 doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine arrived in Bulgaria.

A delivery of 19 200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected on April 13.

On April 16, a total of 14 000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine are expected, and on April 26, a further 24 000 doses, Angelov told the briefing.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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