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Vaccination campaign entitled "Let’s stand together!" For safety and health"

At the press conference on COVID-19, the Slovenian Minister of Health Janez Poklukar and scholar Professor Dr Franc Strle presented the latest findings regarding the spread of the new Omicron variant and the field activities in terms of vaccination.

Minister of Health Janez Poklukar

Minister of Health Janez Poklukar | Author Urad Vlade RS za komuniciranje

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According to Minister Poklukar, in just over 14 days, Omicron has practically supplanted Delta and there is no longer any point to count cases, as all confirmed infections are very likely Omicron infections. Microbiologists and virologists say that they have never seen such a domination of one variant over another.

"We don’t know yet exactly what this highly contagious variant will bring to our hospitals. And that is what worries me the most. It’s a fact that we are entering a period that we have not experienced before in this pandemic. Therefore, in the coming weeks, our society and economy will face very special organisational challenges as, due to its virulence, the virus overruns the country," explained the Minister.

As regards the smooth operation of critical infrastructure, Minister Poklukar was in contact with the responsible minister before the new year. Steps have been taken to contain the spread under the most pessimistic scenario. Minister Poklukar also met with health centre representatives, letting them know that they would need to consider how they were going to ensure the operation of critical 24-hour services. Employee rotation must be introduced so that, in case of a mass infection of the team on duty, there is always one team on standby. The same memo was also sent to hospitals, testing providers and laboratories. Furthermore, they were required to check their inventories of mandatory protective equipment. It has also been noted that international supply chains are collapsing and that suppliers are starting to cancel contracts. Meeting with the Slovenian mayors, the Minister asked everyone present to pay attention to the critical infrastructures in their local communities. They should also provide for the possibility of teams of employees staying at home in case of a mass infection. On Thursday, representatives of business and chambers of commerce and industry gathered in Brdo pri Kranju and were given a presentation of the epidemiological forecast and the measures aimed at preventing economic damage due to infections and quarantine. At one point, up to 400,000 people could be in quarantine at the same time. On Friday, the operation of the Ministry of Health was presented as an example of work from home; the Ministry had an office attendance of 28% on Friday and 27% today.

Today, 572 people are receiving hospital treatment, 157 of whom are in intensive care and 236 of whom need oxygen. Two patients, aged 42 and 58, respectively, need ECMO. There are 73% of unvaccinated patients in the unit and 85% of unvaccinated patients in intensive care. The average age of patients in the unit is 67.5 and the average age of patients in intensive care is 62. The youngest person in intensive care is 18 years old.

Vaccination remains the number one measure. The vaccinated and recovered have protection in their bodies, our immune system has a memory. Therefore, we can fight the virus successfully and, in most cases, will not need hospitalisation. This has been proven by our daily figures: 73% of patients in ordinary units and 85% of patients in intensive care are not vaccinated. The non-vaccinated are much more likely to have a severe course of the disease. Moreover, the non-vaccinated are much more exposed to the risk of long COVID or the post-COVID syndrome, which will have long-term repercussions for the health care system. Long COVID symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, lung problems, cognitive and mental changes, impairments of smell, taste and other organs, and often have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life.


"We have entered the fifth wave of the coronavirus epidemic with a far too low vaccination coverage, overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted personnel. I have called on everyone to vaccinate at every opportunity that arose, both in private life as well as your health minister. However, the decision to get vaccinated is yours. I cannot make this decision for you. I have recovered from COVID-19 myself and have been vaccinated three times. My wife and my children have also been vaccinated. I will do everything that is within the power of the Ministry of Health to bring vaccination closer to every individual and to simplify access to vaccination for all as much as possible," said Minister Poklukar. 

This is why the Ministry of Health is launching a new vaccination campaign under the motto "Let's stand together! For safety and health" from Thursday to Saturday, 13 January to 15 January 2022. During these three days, all vaccination centres will be open from 8:00 to 20:00, no appointment needed. Vaccination will also be organised in COVID hospitals.  Local communities, Slovenian Federation of Pensioners' Organisations, businesses and non-governmental organisations will, in cooperation with a vaccination centre, the Slovenian Civil Protection and the Red Cross, organise mobile units where necessary.

Our objective remains the same: to vaccinate as many people as possible with the first, second or third dose. Each person and every vaccine dose counts. The decision to get vaccinated is a decision for health and for return to the life we knew before March 2020. With the Omicron variant on the rise, this message is even more relevant.

The Slovenian healthcare is struggling to remain operative under the coronavirus burden. Nevertheless, primary healthcare has once again, with great effort, showed its determination to organise and provide vaccination to the widest extent possible. Private persons, dentists, local communities, the civil protection and the Red Cross will again join forces to offer help. This week, press conferences will be held so that the news of the vaccination campaign reaches every village. "Dear media representatives, you have a crucially important role in providing information, which is why I kindly ask you again to use your best efforts to inform as wide an audience as possible," explained Minister Poklukar.

He also briefly discussed all upcoming amendments related to the vaccination certificates and the regulation of the vaccinated status. The unlimited validity of the COVID certificate will only apply until the end of January. As of 1 February, its validity will be limited to nine months. Vaccination remains the best protection against developing a severe illness following a  COVID infection and against hospitalisation. Last week, the Slovenian National Advisory Committee on Immunisation recommended a booster dose to be administered three months after vaccination. "This is why I kindly ask you to participate in the vaccination campaign and avoid the queues in vaccination centres expected to build up at the end of January," concluded Minister Poklukar. 

Scholar Professor Dr Franc Strle explained that the Omicron variant is extremely contagious and that its incubation period is very short. By following simple measures, such as maintaining a safe distance from others, avoiding staying indoors for too long, maintaining suitable ventilation and implementing personal measures, such as hand and cough hygiene and mask-wearing, we can prevent the virus from spreading. But the most important thing is to get vaccinated.