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Updated 22 January 2021

Entering 2021, the small island state of Cyprus is still dealing with heavy Coronavirus caseloads. Despite having a small population of just around 1.2 million people, it reported more than 29,000 cases and 175 deaths.

Being one of the only two vaccines approved by the EU (the other being Moderna), the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine brings hope of the post-COVID normal life in Cyprus. Find out more about the Pfizer vaccination in this island country.

How does the Pfizer vaccine work?

Among the available COVID-19 vaccines, there are four distinct types, namely, whole virus (this can again be a weakened form or inactivated coronavirus), protein subunit, nucleic acid (RNA or DNA), and viral vector.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-29 vaccine BNT162b2 is a messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccine meaning that the vaccine carries genetic instructions that help the recipient’s cells to produce protein pieces that trigger immune system response. The response is in form of the reproduction of millions of copies of spike protein which stimulates the making of antibodies.

This is the same spike protein that is available in the coronavirus and used to enter the cells in the human body. If a sufficient number of antibodies are produced in the human body with the mRNA vaccine, they will prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from proliferating, thus protecting the recipient from COVID-19.

How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine works best with two doses where the second one is registered 21 days after the first one. On administration of the first dose, the immune system is alerted, and post the second one, it gets a boost, thus providing the immunity to fight off the virus. Efficacy is 52% after the first dose and raises up to 95% after the second jab. So, it takes around four weeks to build immunity after the first dose (could happen earlier as well).

It is, however, not particularly known how long the vaccine immunity will last. Insights regarding the Pfizer COVID vaccine’s long term effects are clouded as trials weren’t set up to answer the same. CEO of BioNTech Sahin expects it to be months or possibly even years before the vaccine recipient becomes vulnerable to COVID-19 infection again.

It is also strongly recommended that you should complete the vaccine course i.e. take both the doses before you leave the city.

Are there any reported side effects?

As far as safety is concerned, the Pfizer vaccine has an overall great safety profile with its benefits outweigh the potential risks. Based on safety data collected from 37,586 participants enrolled in an ongoing phase 3 clinical trial, the most commonly reported side effect involves volunteers experiencing an injection site reaction (seen in almost 84% of those who received the vaccine).

So, if you are taking the vaccine, know that the injection site on your arm might hurt a little, show some redness, and get swollen a bit. You might also experience difficulties in moving your arm freely. Other known side effects of the Pfizer vaccine includes:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pains
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

Severe reactions were rare with four cases of Bell’s palsy being reported during the trial. However, there is no clear evidence that the cause of this temporary paralysis was the vaccine. Adverse allergic reactions are also possible and hence those who experienced any major allergic reaction during the first dose of the vaccine are being advised not to take the second one.

Who’ll get the Pfizer vaccine in Cyprus?

The first batches of the Pfizer vials will vaccinate around 8000 people in the country. It is expected, based on the timetable scheduled by Pfizer/BioNTech and European Commission, that Cyprus will receive 28% of its total quantity ordered in the first quarter of 2021.

Priority will be given to:

  1. Residents and staff of senior people’s homes and institutions for chronic adult illnesses and Health professionals: Workers in hospitals with COVID-19 patients, and in all ICU, Accident and Emergency Departments, Ambulance Departments (regardless of COVID hospitalisation).
  2. People > 80 years old (priority in vulnerable groups).
  3. People > 75 years old (priority in vulnerable groups).
  4.  Individuals >= 16 years of high risk for severe disease.
  5. People working in Primary Health Care Centres, followed by other health professionals/personnel, and residents in other closed structures, such as prisons and hosting centres for refugees and migrants.
  6. The rest of the population according to age

Update as of 19 January: In view of the short supply of vaccine and a significant cohort of over 33,000 individuals aged over 80, Cyprus has further subcategorised the group. The ministry will now only reserve the vaccination slots for the 90+ age group.

Where and when to get the Pfizer shots in Cyprus?

After receiving its first shipment on 26 December, Cyprus began the vaccination program with the Pfizer vaccine the very next day.

Vaccination centres have been set up at 38 primary healthcare centres in the country, with each centre having one to three stations. Mobile units have also been deployed to inoculate those in closed structures like senior citizens’ homes.

Shots will be available at Latsia health centre in Nicosia, Limassol’s old hospital, Larnaca old hospital, and Paphos general hospital. The vaccinations will start at 8 AM and go on till about 6-7 PM, depending upon the demand.

Registering for the jabs

After completing the first leg of the program consisting of frontline health staff and care home residents, Cyprus started administering the jabs to the second priority group on January 5. Only people over 90 will be able to register for a slot through the GeSY portal, others will be denied access.

The details of the appointment will be conveyed through a text message.

Note that people above the permitted age bracket may also apply. For example, when the 85-86 age group is getting inoculated, an individual aged 90 and above can also apply.

Cypriots not registered on GeSY Portal:

Those who are not registered on the General Healthcare System’s portal but want to get vaccinated under the National Vaccinations Plan must complete and submit this form along with their Identification Card, Alien Registration Card or other identification document, as well as a copy of that person’s medical card, if applicable.

All these documents must be sent to the Ministry of Health:

  • by email to [email protected],
  • by post to the following address: 1 Prodromou and 17 Chilonos, 1449 Lefkosia, or
  • delivered by hand to the Medical Card Sector, Ministry of Health, 1 Prodromou and 17 Chilonos, Lefkosia.

How much will the Pfizer vaccine cost?

The vaccine will be delivered free of charge to all Cypriot citizens.

Latest updates on the Pfizer Vaccine

As of 19 January, about 12,000 have been vaccinated in Cyprus against COVID-19.

On January 19, the health ministry announced that it has secured 565,000 additional doses, bringing its total order upto 957,000 doses. These additional quantities are expected to be delivered by the second and third quarters of 2021.

Cyprus exercised its option to purchase the Pfizer vials under the EU’s initial contract and placed an order for 195,000 doses. It also negotiated 370,000 more doses under the supplementary contract.