Croatia's coronavirus numbers continue to improve but the country is facing a vaccine shortage as drug makers scale down deliveries.
New cases dropped to only 134 on Monday, the lowest daily count since last September. This is in part due to slow testing over the weekend, however, the test positivity rate was 5.5%, which is a good indicator that the numbers may not be that far off. The bad news is that the death count remains relatively high. Public health officials reported 32 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.
Monday marked 11 months since the first case of the coronavirus was detected in Croatia. Since then, the country has recorded 229,054 cases and 4,895 deaths.
While new cases are declining, Croatia has a new problem, a vaccine shortage. Vaccine manufacturers have cut their planned deliveries by significant amounts. Pfizer will be delivering more than 13 thousand fewer doses of the vaccine than planned to Croatia over the next four weeks, said the head of the Public Health Bureau, Krunoslav Capak.
"We hope that the next delivery after these four weeks will be as planned and we'll be able to catch up, as far as the Pfizer vaccine is concerned,” he said at Monday’s coronavirus task force briefing.
Pfizer is not the only company that is running behind on deliveries. Moderna has also pushed back the delivery date for 4 thousand doses that were due to arrive on Tuesday to January 31, Capak said.
This has raised questions about whether this will affect the protection of people who received the first jab and might have to wait longer for the second. Capak, said overshooting the timeframe recommended by the manufacturer by a few days should not affect the vaccination process negatively. He also gave the latest tally of how many people have been inoculated.
"Up until yesterday, we had vaccinated 69,984 people, while 11,907 have received both doses of the vaccine," Capak said.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said money is what was disrupting vaccine delivery schedules.
"It would seem that certain countries are willing to pay more for the vaccine than the EU. Some actions that have been taken are outside of what was agreed with the drug makers and we will insist on sticking to the agreement. Croatia is still not at the point where it would consider obtaining other vaccines than the ones that were chosen by the EU and because of the credibility of the companies that make them,” the PM said.
Croatia is not planning to loosen pandemic restrictions in the near future, despite threats of protests from some business associations. The head of the national coronavirus task force, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said most measures that are in place until the end of the month will be extended.
"This is not the time to move towards a stricter lockdown, like many countries are doing, but it is also not the time for a major rollback of restrictions."
He added that any decision on loosening restrictions would be based on the recommendations of epidemiologists.