Serbia: Foreigners receive coronavirus vaccines in Belgrade
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Serbia, which has one of the best vaccination rates in Europe, invited other European countries to visit over the weekend to receive their first jab if they were unable to get one. The Balkan nation secured vaccine contracts directly with manufacturers in America, China and Russia after growing frustrated over the rollout slump from the EU and the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme. Visitors were only required to show their passports at vaccination centres as many praised Serbia for its generosity.
Thousands flocked to the Serbian capital Belgrade to receive their jabs with some travelling with their entire family.
Bosnians, Montenegrins and North Macedonians joined large queues outside of the vaccination centres armed with their passports.
The country has also begun sharing and exporting their stockpiles to other countries such as Bosnia to help their programme.
Around two million Serbians have received their first jab in a country with roughly seven million citizens.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been a vocal critic of the European Union’s vaccination programme and voiced his opposition to any potential vaccine export ban.
While the country mainly uses Sputnik and Sinopharm vaccines from Russia and China, it is still expecting more supples from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
It remains one of the few European countries which uses Sputnik V and was the first in Europe to rollout Sinopharm.
President Vucic told the Financial Times that Serbians would be “furious” against any vaccine export ban.
He told FT: “How can they do this? I think they won’t do it because that would be unbelievable.
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“We have already paid and we have an agreement.
“I don’t understand how they can remove me, who has already paid, and who has an agreement for the day of arrival.”
Serbia is also an EU member candidate and is currently going through negotiations to join the bloc.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has drawn criticisms from the UK and member-states for threatening vaccine export bans to countries with high vaccination rates.
It comes as the bloc contests its contractual agreements with AstraZeneca who they say is not fulfilling their part of the deal.
The UK, however, has one of the best vaccination programmes in the world after securing early contracts with several manufacturers.
But Serbian leaders are fearful of a fall in vaccination numbers as vaccine hesitancy grows across Europe.
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According to a YouGov poll, around 42 percent of French respondents believed the AstraZeneca vaccine was unsafe in February.
A recent study found that number had jumped to 60 percent following the AZ rollout pause.
In Germany, Spain and Italy around half of the respondents also believed AstraZeneca was unsafe to use.
However, in the UK, the figure is roughly one in ten.
It comes as 30 million people have received their first dose in the UK.
The UK are also reportedly in conversation with Ireland to share vaccine doses with the neighbouring country.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also welcomed sending Dutch produced AstraZeneca vaccines destined for the UK to the EU to quell any threat of a vaccine war.
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