Vaccination of teachers to start next week

Ljubljana – Slovenia is planning to start mass vaccination of teachers against Covid-19 next week, Jelko Kacin, the coordinator for the logistics of mass vaccination, announced as he visited a vaccination point in Ljubljana on Wednesday.

If everything goes according to plan, Slovenia could administer about 240,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in March, which is about half the capacity, said Kacin, adding that between 500,000 and 600,000 people could be inoculated a month or roughly 30,000 per work day.

Next week the country expects a delivery of over 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Even if those did not arrive, about 15,000 doses are in stock to be used to start vaccinating teachers as a priority next week.

In March, Slovenia expects to receive over 100,000 jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 30,000 jabs of Moderna and almost 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Kacin believes the goal is feasible to immunise at least 50% of the population through inoculation by the end of June, but added: “Our ambitions are greater.”

He places much hope on the vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica, the Belgium-based division of Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) next week and where only one jab is needed. It is not clear yet whether the vaccine will be available in April or May.

Kacin also noted a contract on additional deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine in the second quarter with about 100,000 extra doses a month expected in April, May and June.

Salus, a pharmaceuticals wholesaler, has been picked as a contractor to accept the vaccine supplies, repack and deliver them to vaccination points and collect the leftovers, because it can provide suitable storage facilities.

Kacin said the contract was valid until the end of the year and was valued at just shy of one million euro. Salus could also store vaccines supplied before receiving clearance from EMA.

Diplomats and ministry officials travelling abroad for Slovenia’s upcoming presidency of the EU, who take precedence ahead of teachers under the amended national vaccination strategy, will also get jabs, but not at community health centres.

Kacin lauded AstraZeneca’s as the key vaccine at the moment. Considering when the vaccine becomes effective and the space between both jabs, he said those who got the first jab next week would be immunised until Christmas.

Tea Stegne Ignjatovič, the medical director of the Ljubljana community health centre, said the interest in vaccination was keen for all three vaccines available at the moment although some wanted to wait to be able to chose their jab.

Meanwhile, Jernej Završnik, director of the Maribor community health centre, said that they would be able to vaccinate all teachers in their area next week if they receive just over 5,000 doses of AstraZeneca they had asked for.

Data presented at daily Covid-19 briefing by Marta Grgič Vitek of the National Institute of Public Health show that 125,429 people or 6% of the population had received the first dose and 51,505 or 2.5% of the population received both by yesterday.

Of the 226,956 doses supplied, 172,609 have been administered. Region-wise, the highest share of the population has been inoculated in Goriška in the west, while gender-wise, 3.3% of women and 1.6% of men in the country.

Grgič Vitek, the national vaccination programme coordinator, expects that those above the age of 75 would be mostly inoculated in March.

Out of 154,959 people who received a Pfizer jab, side effects have been reported in 1,823 cases, as have been in ten of 4,910 people vaccinated with Moderna and 200 of the 12,737 who received an AstraZeneca jab.

So far 13 cases of serious side effects were reported.

“There were deaths in five older persons with several chronic conditions which coincided temporarily with vaccination,” Grgič Vitek said, adding that in two of the cases the causal link was established as unlikely, while three cases are still under investigation.

In four cases, persons had to be admitted to hospital after getting a jab the reasons being a collapse a few hours after vaccination while being ill with Covid-19, a ministroke, a chest pain and leukaemia. In those cases too it was established they were unlikely to have been linked to the vaccine.