Marta Grgič Vitek, National Coordinator of the Vaccination Programme at the National Institute of Public Health, Nuška Čakš Jager, Deputy Head of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health, Leon Cizelj of the Jožef Stefan Institute, and Heinz Nečemer, Headteacher of Bad Eisenkappel School Centre in Austrian Carinthia, attended the regular press conference on the current COVID-19 situation.
Grgič Vitek: More vaccine is expected by the end of this month than in all previous months
Marta Grgič Vitek, National Coordinator of the Vaccination Programme at the National Institute of Public Health, briefly presented the latest information about the course of the vaccination programme, the vaccination coverage and adverse effects following vaccination, as collected by the National Institute of Public Health.
So far in April, almost 150,000 doses were supplied, and some 200,000 are expected to arrive by the end of the month. It is expected that almost the same amount of vaccine will arrive this month than in all previous months collectively. So far, 565,000 doses have been supplied.
Grgič Vitek pointed out the new presentation of data on the course of the vaccination programme, which is why the National Institute of Public Health no longer drafts weekly reports on this subject. The data is updated twice a day on the relevant portal.
By yesterday, 16 per cent of Slovenian citizens had been vaccinated with the first dose and almost six per cent with the second. The first dose was received by 14 per cent of men and almost 19 per cent of women, whereas the proportions are somewhat lower for the second dose. Grgič Vitek highlighted that more than 50 per cent of people in all age groups above 70 years have been vaccinated with the first dose and the proportion of people vaccinated in both age groups above 60 years was also growing. She expected that at least 50 per cent coverage would also be achieved in the age group above 65 years in the coming days. According to Grgič Vitek, age is the key factor contributing the most to the severe course of the illness. The average vaccination coverage by regions is 16 per cent with the first dose.
The National Institute of Public Health monitors the adverse reactions following vaccination through the electronic register of adverse reactions to which all providers are obliged to report. Every reported case of an adverse reaction may include several adverse reactions in the same person. Grgič Vitek said that 2,368 adverse reactions were recorded for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with 312,000 vaccinations implemented (somewhat less than one per cent). The National Institute of Public Health received 156 reports (with 41,000 vaccinations implemented) regarding the Moderna vaccine, and 1,592 reports per 100,000 vaccinations implemented were recorded with the AstraZeneca vaccine (some 1.5 per cent).
General problems and injection-site reactions were most common. The situation is similar with all vaccines. By 12 April, the National Institute of Public Health received 52 reports about more serious adverse reactions after vaccinations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (1.3 per cent relating to all reports), one report with regard to the Moderna vaccine, and 16 reports after people were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
As the occurrence of thrombosis after vaccination is being discussed widely by the public, Grgič Vitek further explained that they received twelve reports following vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (all persons were above 70 years, eight of them even over 80 years), and ten reports after vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine (five people were in the 60–70 age group and five in the 40–59 age group).
She also stressed that the thrombosis events reported occur equally frequently with vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons.
Čakš Jager: Work from home could contribute significantly to restricting contacts
Nuška Čakš Jager, Deputy Head of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health, presented the current situation in the world. The number of cases is growing in Europe and Asia, and the number of COVID-19 deaths is approaching three million.
Čakš Jager explained that the combination of indicators (14-day incidence rate, the proportion of tested persons and the proportion of positive results) reveal a severe increase in infections in Spain, Sweden and Western Europe. The incidence is also growing in Italy, Denmark and France.
A comparison of data for the 14-day incidence rate shows that the majority of EU countries experienced a significant increase in the week before our lockdown; the data for Slovenia shows a 17-per cent increase before the lockdown. Higher growth was recorded in Malta, Slovakia, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Denmark.
Čakš Jager provided a brief comment regarding the data published today for 13 April. A local source, i.e. family, or an unknown source are still provided as the most frequent sources of infection. She highlighted that a workplace remains a quite frequent source of infection and work from home may be a measure not utilised enough in efforts to contain the spread. She repeated the epidemiologists’ recommendation that as many people as possible should work from home.
Among the infections by age groups, she pointed to the shift in the 15–24 age group. The number of infected persons among the working population remains high, while the number and proportion of infected persons among the elderly are constantly decreasing, which is likely the effect of vaccination and measures taken by retirement homes. In the last two weeks, two cases of infection were recorded in one retirement home, and only individual cases in other homes. According to Čakš Jager, the outbreaks in retirement homes are no longer recorded and the proportion of retirement home residents among the total number of deaths is also decreasing.
A slight drop in infections was also noted among the school population due to distance learning and the same was noticed among the teaching staff, but the Deputy Head of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health emphasised that it was necessary to wait a week to see in which direction the trend would turn.
She also mentioned that educational institutions can find the instructions on how to proceed upon the suspicion or a confirmed case of infection at the website of the National Institute of Public Health. The website also provides all data analyses on the epidemic prepared at the Institute.
In conclusion, she also drew attention to the increased occurrence of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in Slovenia.
Cizelj: Self-protective behaviour contributed to the calming of the situation
Leon Cizelj, representative of the Jožef Stefan Institute, showcased the key differences in the epidemic development just before the lockdown and until yesterday or today. He stressed that the reproduction number before the lockdown was about 1.2 and today it is about 1. If we can endure this situation, the vaccination coverage and herd immunity will calm down the epidemic by the summer, said Cizelj.
Self-protective behaviour and measures contributed to the calming of the situation. The UK strain continues to spread significantly.
The scenarios for hospitals reveal the steering of the trend into the so-called target area, which means that the lockdown also contributed to a reduction in hospital admissions. According to the forecast, the numbers of admissions will decrease towards the summer, but more than 100 persons could still be hospitalised at the end of June.
More people have been admitted to intensive care units in the third wave than in the first or second waves. One fourth of patients require intensive care treatment. Without the lockdown, the numbers would exceed the record set during the second wave. The current numbers do not show a significant improvement, especially as those currently being treated in intensive care units became infected before 1 April.
There are still almost 1,000 infections daily: one infection is confirmed every 1.5 minutes. Some 60 persons will end up in hospitals, some 15 will require intensive care and about ten may also die within a certain period. It is estimated that some 3,000 to 4,000 people become infected daily.
Cizelj advises preventive behaviour and informing about infections within families which are in vulnerable bubbles.
Nečemer: Participation in self-testing is 100 per cent
Heinz Nečemer, Headteacher of Bad Eisenkappel School Centre, explained the process of self-testing in Austrian schools. He said that the tests are provided by the federal ministry. The children perform tests on their own and they cannot injure themselves with the tests. The results are known no later than in ten minutes.
The self-testing is done three times a week in the lower grades and twice a week in the higher grades. The participation of children in self-testing is 100 per cent. The test serves as a “ticket” to lessons, and is implemented by children aged 6 to 15.
Nečemer also explained that, so far, they have only had one positive test, which was not confirmed by the molecular test. Three in more than 1,000 tests done were invalid. Nečemer further highlighted that test results are revealed only to the teacher. The self-testing in Austria is taking place in primary and secondary schools.