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Marta Grgič Vitek: Good vaccination coverage among people in the 70+ age group

At the press conference on the current situation regarding COVID-19 participated Dr Nuška Čakš Jager, Deputy Head of the Centre for Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Dr Marta Grgič Vitek, National Vaccination Programme Coordinator at the NIJZ, and Leopold Zonik, Director of the Health Centre Bled.

Yesterday, 4,469 PCR tests were carried out, 532 new infections were confirmed, and 28,264 rapid antigenic tests were also carried out. Today, 368 COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospitals, 110 of which are in intensive care units. Yesterday, 28 patients were admitted to hospitals anew, and 38 people were discharged. Another five people died.

Currently, there are less than 7,000 active infections in the country

The epidemiological situation in the country continues to improve. The number of active cases of COVID-19 infection is still decreasing. According to estimates of NIJZ, there are currently less than 7,000 active infections in the country.

The seven-day average of infections continues to decrease. Today's data show that the seven-day average is 417. Yesterday, this average was 444. We are still in the yellow phase. However, this afternoon, the Government will meet with the Expert Group at the Ministry of Health at Brdo pri Kranju and note the current epidemiological situation. Accordingly, the Government will also discuss the continuation of the measures.

Epidemiologists never completely ceased looking for contacts

Dr Nuška Čakš Jager, Deputy Head of the Centre for Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), pointed out that the epidemiological situation improves Slovenia and in the world. There is a decline in confirmed cases across all continents except Asia, namely in India, where the number of new cases is still growing. In the world, we have surpassed 150 million positive cases and over 3 million deaths. Globally, 137 countries record the English version of the strain, 84 the South African strain, 47 the Brazilian strain, and 19 countries reported the Indian strain.

More than 32 million positive cases were recorded in Europe since 31 December last year, with over 700 deaths," she said. At the end of week 18, there were 277 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the EU over the fourteen days of confirmed cases. Meanwhile, the number for Slovenia is 312, where the most likely source of infection is the domestic environment. We have stayed at 11 per cent of the positive tests. However, there is a decrease. She highlighted the differences between regions. Some are below the European average, and some exceed the average of Slovenia. There are no significant changes in age groups. There is still a trend in growth in the 15–24 age group.

The situation is also favourable in nursing homes, where one minor outbreak is being recorded in one home. Dr Nuška Čakš Jager pointed out that the course of the disease is not critical even in this case. Most of the patients were vaccinated or partially vaccinated. We did not record any deaths among residents in nursing homes in the last week. In schools, too, there is a downward trend. The same also applies to the general population.

Although the vaccination coverage is increasing, Dr Nuška Čakš Jager warns that it is still necessary to act protectively. She warned of the improper use of the mask.

According to her, epidemiologists never stopped looking for contacts. They adapted to the situation and maintained the search for contacts, mainly for critical areas (child-care facilities, nursing homes, and health care). All positive patients were asked to inform their risk contacts and urge them to act protectively. All efforts are directed towards setting up professional call centres. It is a long-term solution, which is also commissioned by the international community and international legal regulations.

No recommendations on the third dose will be published before autumn

Dr Marta Grgič Vitek, National Vaccination Programme Coordinator at the NIJZ, pointed out that the share of people in Slovenia vaccinated with all doses rose to 14.2 per cent. The most successful regions are approaching 30 per cent of the single-dose vaccinated population. There is a slightly greater share of women who are vaccinated. However, these differences are diminishing. Vaccination coverage by age suggests that people in the 70+ age group are well covered. Even in the 60+ age group, we have reached almost 50 per cent. However, there is yet much to be achieved in the 50+ age group, she added.

As she pointed out, the NIJZ has published updated recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination. For Pfizer's vaccine, it is recommended that three weeks should elapse between the first and second dose. A four-week period should elapse for the Moderna's vaccine, and a 12-week interval between the first and second dose of AstraZeneca is recommended. Vaccination can also be given before the elapse of the recommended 12-week interval.

She also presented data on post-vaccination adverse reactions. She said that soon, namely towards the end of the month, the EMA is expected to authorise the vaccination of young people aged 12 years of age with Pfizer's vaccine.

Vaccination is also recommended for COVID-19 recovered patients, pointed out Dr Grgič Vitek. For such patients, a single dose of the vaccine is sufficient, she said. Such a person is protected immediately after receiving the dose for the following six months. If more than eight months have elapsed since the onset of the disease, or in the event of immunosuppressed individuals, they receive complete vaccination, said Dr Grgič Vitek. As for the third dose of the vaccine, no recommendations have yet been made, and they will certainly not be made before autumn. Still, the protection period will undoubtedly have to be extended, she pointed out.

No sick leaves were observed in the health centre after vaccination due to infectious diseases

Mr Leopold Zonik, director of the Bled Health Centre, said the employees had been vaccinated for the first time in January, and since then, there have been no sick leaves due to infectious diseases. On Thursday, they will repeat the vaccination for everyone on their list. Afterwards, they will vaccinate persons on the zVEM list. As he notes, more and more young people register for vaccination, and there is a strong interest in the tourism economy. Mr Zonik also pointed out employees at the health centre are under tremendous pressure because of requests for testing certification, vaccinations, testing, and certificates for recovered patients.