People massively turning down AstraZeneca jab

Maribor/Ljubljana – Slovenia’s largest two vaccination centres witnessed massive cancellations by those due to get an AstraZeneca jab last week. Half of those invited turned down the jab in Maribor and a third in Ljubljana.

Under the valid national vaccination strategy, AstraZeneca is being currently administered to over 60-year-olds, while the national immunisation advisory body has approved the vaccine for use on everyone over 18.

The Maribor Community Health Centre has been inviting 60-65s to be inoculated with the jab.

However, the centre’s director, Jernej Završnik said they had been noticing people having second thoughts. If someone refuses a particular jab, or does not respond to the invitation, “we call the next one on the list”.

Half the people invited to get the jab turned it down, while in case of the other two available vaccines about 10% are turned down, Završnik told the STA on Monday.

So far, the Maribor centre vaccinated 10,400 people with the AstraZeneca jab. In all they had inoculated 41,200 with the first dose and 11,230 with both doses. They expect they will have inoculated all over 60s this week.

Meanwhile, the Ljubljana Community Health Centre saw 1,646 of the 5,040 appointed (33%) to get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab fail to appear for their appointment last week. Those due to get other vaccines all turned up.

In case of cancellations, the centre has reserve lists of persons in the target group planned for immunisation. “If we are vaccinating over the 60s, over 60s are entered on the reserve list as well,” the centre said.

Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar told reporters on Tuesday that those who turn down a certain vaccine are placed on the bottom of the waiting list, which means their turn will come once there is enough of the desired vaccine available.

“All the vaccines that have been endorsed by the European Medicines Agency are safe and effective,” the official underscored.

Last week, the EU medicines regulator said that unusual blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but also said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

Bojana Beović, the head of the national immunisation advisory commission, expressed surprise at the vaccine being turned down by the over 60s, considering the vaccine involves no risk for the age group on principle.

“It’s the cohort where the risk of the vaccine is minimal compared with the risk of the disease. In the past week or ten days everyone who died from Covid-19, that is about ten people, were in fact over 60 years of age, except individual exceptions,” she said.

She believes GPs should talk to their patients to better explain the risks and benefits involved.

The advisory group’s decision that the vaccine can be used for all age groups of adults as approved by the EMA means that those who have received the first dose of the vaccine, that is teachers, will get the same jab again.

Beović said that as far as she knew everyone over 60 who had wished so had been vaccinated, so the vaccination rollout could move down to the next priority tier.

Data from the National Institute of Public Health show 101,027 people have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 218 have received two at the national level. In all, 334,706 have been inoculated with the first dose and 122,185 are fully vaccinated.