(DF) Organizational Changes in COVID Vaccination Give Priority to Elderly, People with Chronic Diseases

May 17 (BTA) – An order of caretaker Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov issued on Monday introduces changes to the current organization of mass vaccination against COVID-19 in Bulgaria. Mondays to Thursdays are now reserved for the inoculation of older persons and people with chronic health conditions (ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and oncological diseases, or other health conditions by the doctor’s decision). Everyone else can get a jab in the order of their online immunization registration on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the Ministry’s press service reported. Everyone can get vaccinated free or charge either by their general practitioner or at the existing vaccination centres across Bulgaria. Until now, any adult wishing to get inoculated could do so any day of the week (subject to vaccine availability) by their general practitioner, at a vaccination centre following an online registration, or at a medical health establishment offering the so-called green lane for vaccination without prior registration. The Health Minister’s order also changes the manner in which general practitioners (GPs) obtain doses of COVID-19 vaccines for their patients. In the next two months, GPs will be receiving vaccines at logistics stations, instead of at the corresponding regional health inspectorate. Starting Tuesday, the inspectorates across Bulgaria have to determine the logistics stations on the territory of each municipality and, when necessary, in remote settlements. The inspectorates are obliged to deliver to these stations the number of vaccine doses requested by the GPs. General practitioners have to provide the inspectorates with lists of persons with reduced mobility and persons living in remove or hard-to-reach areas who wish to get inoculated, so that the inspectorates can organize mobile vaccination teams. In a video released by the Health Ministry’s press service later on Monday, Katsarov says that the percentage of older persons and people with chronic diseases who have been inoculated against COVID-19, is very low. Vaccination is the only way to limit the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the mortality rate, and everyone can see that in the indices of the countries which have vaccinated a large part of their populations, he says, adding that Bulgaria is at the bottom of the EU in this respect as well. “I know that many doubt the vaccines’ safety; I, too, have had my reservations due to the short period and scale of the clinical trials,” he notes. In his words, it is a fact that the vaccines have been administered to millions of people, and the side effects are exceptionally low in number. “We have already paid high enough a price: in the last six months alone, the fatalities were by 26,000 more than in the same period of the year in each of the last five years, and 80 per cent of those who died from COVID were aged over 60,” Katsarov says in the video. He stresses that the danger has not yet passed and that no one can guarantee the coronavirus will not return. Following an extraordinary meeting of the caretaker cabinet later on Monday, Health Minister Katsarov said that the Government had decided to join the European Commission’s contract with Pfizer/BioNTech on the provision of their vaccine for the EU in 2022 and 2023. Enough doses of this vaccine will be provided for the entire population, he specified. In relation to the supply of protective masks and disinfectants for the snap elections in July, Katsarov said that according to his Ministry’s assessment, the anti-epidemic procedure at the April 4 general elections had not been the best possible one. Some election commissions received their personal protective equipment on April 5, he noted. Therefore, in July the equipment’s delivery will be organized by the regional governors, and not by the Health Ministry. Katsarov went on to say that there probably will be personnel changes in the sector. Checks will be conducted in the Alexandrovska University Hospital and other medical treatment facilities and based on the results, it will be decided whether changes in their leadership will be made. Whether there will be a COVID-19 national task force will be decided by the Prime Minister, Katsarov said in reply to a question, but added that in view of the management of the covid situation, such a task force is not necessary. The Health Minister also said that the decision on a possible extension of the state of epidemic emergency beyond May will be taken in the coming days. Two aspects will be taken into consideration: the medical aspect and the question of financial support to businesses, he added. *** Former health minister Kostadin Angelov commented on Facebook and then before journalists on Monday’s order of caretaker Health Minister Katsarov. According to Angelov, the order will compromise the speed of the mass vaccination and will delay the achievement of herd immunity. Angelov is firmly against the closure of the green lanes for vaccination. He described as untrue Katsarov’s statement that vaccinated over-60-year-olds amount to only 20 per cent. They number over 500,000, Angelov argued. NV, RI/DS /ДЛ/