European Western Balkans

Zaev: North Macedonia to get 8.000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from Serbia

Zoran Zaev; Photo: Tanjug / Dragan Kujundžić

SKOPJE – North Macedonia is set to receive 8,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine from Serbia, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev announced on Monday, N1 reported.

Zaev wrote on Facebook that he spoke to the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić who agreed to help North Macedonia, adding that the details of the delivery are being defined.

“We have happy news. We are getting 8,000 Pfizer vaccines from Serbia. President Vučić confirmed today that Serbia will help us with vaccines from its procurement which we will pay for at purchase price, ”he wrote adding that this is “an act of solidarity from our neighbor and a reinforcement of our friendship”.

Zaev told reporters earlier that they also discussed the possibility of Serbia giving his country other vaccines.

According to Zaev, doctors and nurses, the chronically ill and other risky categories will be inoculated with the vaccines from Serbia.

For some Western Balkans countries, COVAX system is the only way for the procurement of vaccines.

The first batch of one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s leading pharmaceutical company Sinopharm arrived in Serbia on Saturday, receiving a personal welcome at the airport from the country’s president.

Serbia has also purchased Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as well as a jab jointly developed by the US’ Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. The country plans to vaccinate 80 percent of its population of seven million.

An anonymous EU country had provided Tirana with 975 doses

Albania began inoculations this week after an anonymous EU country had provided Tirana with 975 doses.

“If you see how the European Union has conceived this process, for the moment it has decided to think only of itself. It has been left to the discretion of member states to build interactive processes for vaccines in bilateral ways with non-EU countries. COVAX will function one day, but we don’t know and no one knows when this will be possible,” added Rama,” said Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Euronews reported.

According to the Prime Minister Rama, Albania has secured a contract to receive 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first 10,000 of which are set to arrive next week.

Rama said next week Albania will also give “a symbolic number of vaccines” to neighbouring Kosovo for frontline medical personnel.

“In this case, it is important to think not like the EU, but to think that we are not alone because Kosovo and Albania are one in joy and trouble,” Rama said.

Montenegro’s COVID-19 vaccination programme hit by delay

The Montenegrin government is still negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to buy doses of their COVID-19 vaccines while other countries in the Balkans have already started to vaccinate some of their citizens, Balkans Insight reported.

Montenegrin health minister Jelena Borovinić Bojović said on Monday that the country is still negotiating with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca to buy doses of their COVID-19 vaccines.

Montenegro had been relying solely on COVAX, a global initiative involving governments and manufacturers aimed at ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines reach the world’s less wealthy countries. Podgorica agreed in October to pay 646,000 euros for 248,800 doses, enough for 20 per cent of the country’s population.

The health minister at the time, Kenan Hrapović, said COVAX was “the most favourable option for all less developed countries and countries in transition, including Montenegro, in terms of procurement of vaccines for COVID-19, because it provides a high degree of safety and transparency”.

But after the country’s new government came to power, new health minister Borovinić Bojović accused Hrapović of delaying making a plan to procure vaccines and organise a vaccination programme.

Borovinić Bojović said that most of the countries in the Balkans had established contacts with other vaccine producers, while Montenegro was relying only on COVAX. Some vaccinations have already started in neighbouring Croatia, Serbia and Albania.

“They had enough time to procure and receive vaccines in their countries, which was not the case in Montenegro… We had to establish connections with individual manufacturers in a short time,” said Borovinić Bojović.

On December 21, the head of the Institute for Public Health, Igor Galić, said that the government had established a special body to organise the distribution of doses and vaccinations.

Two days later, Borovinić Bojović said vaccinations would start at the end of January, and that medical staff and people over 80 will be vaccinated first.

On December 28, the European Commission adopted a 70-million-euro package to help fund Western Balkan states’ access to COVID-19 vaccines procured by EU member states. It said the money will be distributed as grants to help cover the cost of the vaccines for priority groups in the region, as well as the necessary vaccination equipment.

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