(DF) Thousands Turn Out to Get COVID Jab as Mass Vaccination Rolls Out across Bulgaria

February 21 (BTA) – Mass vaccination is rolling out across the country. “Those willing to get vaccinated nationwide are in the thousands, waiting lines are a common sight,” Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told a briefing outside a Sofia hospital on Sunday. “The idea is being considered to leave the so-called vaccination green lanes in place until the end of business tomorrow [Monday].” People started lining up at the vaccination locations in Sofia on Saturday, a day after the Prime Minister ordered that “green lanes” be opened up to immunize all who want. As he inspected the process on Saturday, Health Minister Angelov said he was happy with how it was going. The idea of the “green lanes” was to provide access to a coronavirus vaccine for everybody regardless of whether they are in a priority group or not. The step was prompted by a high level of COVID vaccine hesitancy among Bulgarians: the head of Sofia’s Pirogov Emergency Hospital, Dr Asen Baltov, said that out of 150 people from the priority groups with vaccination appointments, only 50 actually turn up. On Saturday and Sunday, people could go to get a jab at any of several COVID vaccination facilities in Sofia and the large cities across the country. The initial plan was to have the green lanes open only on weekends and gradually roll out the process as more vaccines become available and the people from the priority groups get vaccinated. On Sunday, Health Minister Angelov said that by the end of the day he will have given instructions to local health authorities to get ready to open round-the-clock vaccination offices in the larger regional capitals if waiting lines are not cleared by the late afternoon. The aim is to make sure that every Bulgarian who wants to get vaccinated will receive the jab. After March 3, people will have an opportunity to book a time for vaccination via electronic registration, the Health Minister said. Everyone will be able to sign up and choose a vaccination site. “It is better for people to wait for vaccination than to wait in front of the emergency rooms or to wait for an ambulance that may or may not come,” the Health Minister said in a comment on the long wait for vaccines. “I am satisfied with the pace of vaccination, at the moment we are achieving good results,” Angelov commented. He described the choice of vaccines as a key point in the vaccination strategy. He vowed that there are enough quantities for all. The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently available at vaccination locations, Pfizer vaccines will arrive on Monday, and 12,000 Moderna vaccine doses will arrive on Wednesday, the Health Minister said. About 80,000 additional doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive at the end of the month. Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kounchev said on Sunday that at the end of March Bulgaria will receive the new Janssen vaccine, which is being assessed by the European Medicines Agency. It will be administered in a single dose, which will make the immunization process even easier, Kounchev said. GPs will be able to vaccinate from Monday, although there are some who are already doing it, Angelov added. LN/VE