ZAGREB, 3 March, 2021 – Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Wednesday that during his talks with a Russian delegation he had called for expediting the delivery of documentation on the Russian COVID-19 vaccine so that Croatia’s HALMED regulator could evaluate the vaccine’s safety and efficiency. “The meeting yesterday with the Russian ambassador does not indicate that we are abandoning the European Commission’s common procurement but is rather a sign that we are looking for complementary methods that will be in line with the EC and Croatian regulations,” the minister told a news conference. He said that it was possible to obtain the vaccine without the approval of the European Medicines Agency and that the analysis by HALMED would take some time, but that he was talking about days and weeks, not months. Yesterday’s meeting was held at the proposal of the Russian ambassador, it was pleasant, constructive and friendly and focused on possibilities of obtaining the vaccine, Beroš said. It was stressed that procuring the vaccine from Russia was a possibility and that it had to be in line with EU and Croatian regulations, Beroš said. He noted that the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry has sent a note to the Russian Embassy specifying the 11 documents HALMED needed in order to be able to evaluate the safety of the vaccine. “I thank our Russian friends for their efforts to help us in the fight against the pandemic because vaccination, along with restrictions, is the main weapon in preventing the spread of the infection,” he said. He noted that it had already been said that HALMED could evaluate the efficacy of the vaccine without the approval of the European Medicines Agency if so requested by Croatian health authorities, in order to secure emergency vaccine imports. “I believe it is a legitimate government effort to ensure for citizens everything that science can offer, but the main criterion must be safety, efficacy and quality,” he stressed. As for the debt to drug wholesalers, which have limited drug deliveries to hospitals because of their debts, Beroš said that it was a problem that had persisted for decades and that it should be dealt with through a reform of the health system as well as talks with drug wholesalers. He said the government would do its best to secure an unobstructed supply of drugs for citizens and that it would hold talks with drug wholesalers. The Croatian health system is financially unsustainable and the crisis year 2020 accentuated the negative financial effects due to an increase in health spending as well as the cost of procuring the COVID-19 vaccine, which amounted to more than two billion kuna last year, said Beroš.
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