This factcheck examines the origin and authenticity of the statement “Bulgaria has stopped using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine”, made in an AlJazeera article. It turns out that the claim is TRUE.
This topic is of extremely high importance for the health situation in Europe but more so for Bulgaria – the reactions towards the introduction of vaccines in Bulgaria were polarized and the society reacted strongly both for and against. That is why it is important to check this decision made by the government which impacts the health of the whole community. The validation of this information was necessary because contradictory messages appeared in the media space here.
Bulgaria is among the countries in the European Union, received a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine, which has undergone additional checks. Bulgaria has stopped using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, joining a small number of European countries that have halted its use after reports that some recipients developed serious blood clots. There were reports of roughly 37 cases of blood clots occurring after vaccination in many European countries and a few of them are fatal. On the 12th of March Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov stated that the use of the vaccine in Bulgaria would also be paused “until all doubts are dispelled and as long as the experts do not give guarantees that it does not pose a risk to the people, and while in a written opinion the European Medicine Agency (EMA) dismissed any doubts and to its safety. “
In this article from the 12th of March 2021 it is stated “Bulgaria latest to halt AstraZeneca vaccine”. The claim is factual, based on official information and its subject is clearly defined as the temporary halt of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bulgaria. The author of the claim is the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov and his claim was based on a primairy source, refered to in the article. A second expert, the Minister of Health Kostadin Angelov confirms the claim. “ In Bulgaria we also have a fatal outcome, but we have no proof that is due to it.”, said the Minister of Health Kostadin Angelov. Moreover, according to the Brussels Times, the European Medicines Agency EMA is still investigating second side effect of AstraZeneca vaccine.
What happens in the field?
But what is the story behind the official information and what happens in the hospitals? According to a phone interview with Maria Spasova – a PR of Maichin Dom (Mothers’ home)– they stopped using AstraZeneca as soon as a RZI (Regional Health Inspectorate) official rule was handed to all hospitals in Bulgaria and a regulation was issued by the Ministry of Health. This was on the same day as the statement was made.
The patients who had their first dose of AstraZeneca given already were instructed to wait until the vaccine is put in use again. Mothers’ home restarted the vaccine usage after the second statement by Ministry of Health on March 18, which stated that the vaccination with AstraZeneca should be resumed the next day.
The Military Academy accepted people for second dosage even after the first official announcement, according to their Facebook post on March 12. On March 19 their Facebook page confirms the official statement by the government to resume all vaccination with AstraZeneca.
University Multi-profile Hospital for Active Treatment and Emergency Medicine Pirogov has the same policy as Maichin Dom and resumed vaccination after the second government statement, according to their Facebook page.
Alexandrovska University Hospital reacts the same way and even shares two interviews on the topic of resuming the vaccination on March 19.
Bulgaria was one of the first countries to halt the usage of AstraZeneca. Bulgarian citizens however weren’t sure whether this statement of the government was true or some immature decision due to insufficient arguments. Factchecking showed that the hospitals were instructed to stop vaccination on 12 March until vaccine was put back into use on 19 March 2021. Three of leading and biggest hospitals in Bulgaria – Pirogov, Alexandrovska and Military Medical Academy, where patients seek information’s updates every day, confirmed this policy.
The usage of AstraZeneca has been restarted by the order of Ministry of Health , but the reasons are not entirely clear, as an interview with Maichin Dome proved. The effect of the confusion was that Bulgarians now prefer to be vaccinated by Moderna and Pfizer- BioNTech. The scientific research about the potential helath risk of the AstraZeneca vaccin is ongoing and to early to be factchecked.
We found the statement made in the media to be true.
RESEARCH ARTICLE : Viktoria Kostova, Maria Borisova, Antoaneta Nikolova