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The benefits of vaccines exceed the dangers of vaccines

The press conference was attended by Bojana Beović, member of the advisory group for vaccinations at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), and Ada Hočevar Grom from NIJZ.

4,842 PCR tests were carried out on Monday, 918 persons tested positive. 19 per cent of tests were positive. 47,109 rapid tests were carried out. A total of 451 people required hospitalisation care yesterday (463 the day before), 83 of whom were in intensive care. Three persons died in hospitals. The seven-day average number of confirmed cases is higher than in the previous days, at 716, as per the published data of NIJZ. The following municipalities stand out in terms of new positive Covid cases: Ajdovščina (18), Nova Gorica (15), Celje (54), Žalec (30), Novo mesto (24), Kranj (22), Koper (41), Ljubljana (104) and Maribor (45).

With the last change of the Order on temporary measures relating to the healthcare service due to infectious disease COVID-19, in force as of 12 March, certain temporary measures were amended in the organisation of the healthcare service and the conditions for performing healthcare services. The changes ensure the performance of measures for managing and preventing the spread of the infectious disease COVID-19, while the provision of other healthcare services are simultaneously being restarted if the available capacities allow for it.

Some countries have decided to temporarily suspend vaccinations with the above vaccine. The reasons for the temporary suspension vary; some countries have seen an increase of severe adverse effects, while others are referring to the Norwegian report on 4 cases with severe blood clots and haemorrhages, and in cerebral veins in three cases, said Beović.

Last week, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) published the first statement regarding vaccinations with AstraZeneca vaccines. It stressed that the benefit of the vaccine surpasses the dangers of the vaccine, which is why vaccinations should continue. The analysis of complications in the form of blood clots and other complications will continue. It was important to note that the number of complications with dangerous clots does not exceed the overall frequency of dangerous clots in the general population.

Based on the information known to-date, 37 events were noted in the EU, the European Economic Area and in the United Kingdom that included dangerous blood clots in the time sequence related to vaccinations after 17 million vaccinations were administered, which is approx. two such events per one million vaccinations. The frequency of severe blood clots is 3 per 1000 people per year, the data was taken from a recent American study. Blood clots are more frequent in elderly people and people with certain diseases that increase such risk.

The opinion of the EMA remains unchanged, while they are intensively reviewing the documented cases. The meeting at which the analyses of the adverse events will be discussed is scheduled for Thursday, 18 March.The EMA will study the adverse effects in the form of clots in all the vaccines.

After yesterday’s decision of the Ministry of Health regarding the temporary suspension of the application of AstraZeneca vaccines, until the thromboembolic events related to the vaccination are clarified (as was reported in some countries), the advisory group for vaccinations met today at NIJZ and adopted the following position:

“Based on the known information, the vaccine is safe. The frequency of thromboembolic events that occurred in some countries after vaccines were applied does not exceed the frequency in the general population known to-date. We have not recorded any such events in Slovenia so far. Post-vaccination adverse effects are being carefully monitored, as well as the reports from the EMA which analyses such events from other countries. The group understands that the Ministry of Health joined the precautionary measure of several European countries, we could say countries with almost 80 percent of the entire EU population, and that the application of the vaccine is withheld until the European agency’s results are published.” The precautionary measure is a message to the citizens of Slovenia and other countries that the vaccines are under control and that the vaccine, should the European agency confirm such results, really is safe.

With this research, NIJZ wishes to increase people’s understanding regarding the COVID-19 epidemic, to monitor their attitude towards the epidemic and the related measures, and to assess the epidemic exhaustion caused by COVID-19 in Slovenia.

Research is being done in cooperation with people aged between 18 and 74 as an online panel survey research in twelve (12) repetitions. NIJZ started carrying it out on 4 December 2020. Repetitions are carried out once to twice per week. The basis of the research is the questionnaire of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The questionnaire is adjusted to the conditions in Slovenia, which also allows it to be compared internationally because similar research is being conducted by several European and other countries. Hočevar Grom presented some key findings following the 7th wave of research that spanned from 26 February to 1 March this year.

A large majority of the surveyed people state that they complied with the prescribed measures and recommendations for the prevention of the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the last 7 days. Of the listed measures, the persons asked are still very much using protection masks in public (91 percent), they are avoiding visits to the elderly when they have symptoms of the infection (89 percent), they are maintaining the recommended distance in public (86 percent) and they disinfect their hands when washing is not possible (86 percent). They are less likely to disinfect surfaces (55 percent). The sequential order of complying with the measures remains the same as in the 6th wave of research.

By comparing the results of each wave of research, the usage of protective masks in public was the measure most complied with in all the waves. However, the 7th wave has shown a downward trend of complying with all the measures compared to the previous wave, with the exception of maintaining the recommended distance in public, which remained the same. A major reduction was recorded in avoiding private social events (from 87 percent in the 1st wave to 75 percent in the 7th wave) and staying at home from 74 to 60 percent. If the measure for staying at home, which also includes work, school and studies from home, was expected to lose support based on the opening of kindergartens and schools for all primary and secondary school students, partaking in private social gatherings may increase the risk of the spread of the infection.

The measures for the prevention and restriction of the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are diverse and have changed during the research waves. Among the measures that were adopted on 15 February, the highest support in the 7th wave of research was given to the following measures: opening of schools for primary school students and secondary school students in their final year of study (84 percent), followed by the abolition of the restriction concerning movement between municipalities (80 percent). The surveyed persons have the least support for the restriction of free movement between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., the measure is supported only by one quarter of persons (27 percent).

Among the three measures that were in force throughout the observed period, the share of those that support wearing face masks outside when the necessary distance of 2 metres cannot be ensured, was reduced by 5 percentage points compared to the 1st wave, whereas support for restricting restaurants to only do take-aways or deliveries was reduced by 13 percentage points and the support for the restriction of free movement between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. by 23 percentage points.