Cyprus cabinet rolls up sleeve for troubled AZ jab

Nicosia (AFP) –


In a bid to encourage reluctant islanders to take AstraZeneca jabs, members of the Greek Cypriot cabinet are to stage a joint Covid-19 vaccination event on Thursday to try to shore up public trust.

Cypriots are wary of choosing the AstraZeneca vaccine after highly publicised deaths linked to rare blood clotting incidents after taking the jab.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said cabinet members who have not been vaccinated will together receive the AstraZeneca shot at a centre in Nicosia.

"It will send a message of confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy," Koushos said in a written statement.

Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides is to vaccinated on 19 April as he is abroad on official business.

The move comes as vaccinations hit a speed bump following reports of a possible link between the AZ vaccine and rare cases of blood clotting.

Cypriots eligible for vaccination have shown a clear preference for Pfizer or Moderna jabs after doubts surrounding AstraZeneca.

Reassurances from the European Medicines Agency that the AZ vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks have done little to boost confidence.

The island’s online vaccination portal opened on Tuesday for people aged 55 and 56 with 20,000 appointments available, the majority for AstraZeneca.

But thousands of slots remained open, with people preferring to wait for Pfizer or Moderna, the health ministry said.

It was the same last week for those aged 57 and 58, with thousands of AZ jabs not taken up.

AstraZeneca is the cornerstone of the Cyprus government’s vaccination rollout.

Cypriots not coming forward for the jab hampers plans to vaccinate 60 percent of the one-million population by the end of June.

The official Cyprus News Agency said the country was to receive some 2,400 of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday afternoon but it was "unknown if it will be distributed" due to blood clot cases reported in the United States.

Government-controlled southern Cyprus has registered more than 52,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and over 270 deaths since the pandemic reached its shores in February-March 2020.