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Von der Leyen: Vaccines to Western Balkans “as soon as possible”

Ursula von der Leyen speaking in the EP; Photo: Twitter / vonderleyen

BRUSSELS – EU leaders called for greater solidarity with third countries on the delivery of vaccines on Thursday, January 21, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Western Balkans will receive vaccines from the EU as soon as possible.

According to Von der Leyen, COVAX system, which is intended for the procurement of vaccines for low and middle-income countries, currently has problems in the procurement of vaccines. However, she added that the EU is establishing “another lane” to donate doses to the Western Balkan countries directly from EU Member States.

“I proposed an EU mechanism by which those countries will have access to part of the vaccines from our reserves. We can and will have to do that without interrupting our national vaccination campaigns and in coordination with pharmaceutical companies,” said Von der Leyen after the summit of EU leaders, Nova.rs reports.

She added that helping third countries to get vaccines is in the interest of the EU itself.

“The longer the virus circulates around the world, the greater the risk of mutations and the greater the risk to our health. That is why it is in our interest to share vaccines with other regions of the world at an early stage,” Von der Leyen pointed out.

In addition to supporting the Western Balkans and neighbours in the procurement of vaccines, leaders also discussed vaccine deliveries within the EU, vaccination campaigns launched across Europe, and vaccination certificates.

Read more: What are the vaccination plans of Western Balkan countries in 2021?

As the European Commission’s Spokesperson Ana Pisonero stated for the European Western Balkans, all economies participating in the COVAX system are expected to have access to doses in the first half of 2021.

The CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Seth Berkley said that thanks to international collaboration COVAX is ready to start delivering doses in February.

“By our calculation, with the right level of funding in place, COVAX will be able to procure 2.3 billion doses of vaccines in 2021. This equates to 1.8 billion doses for people in 92 lower-income countries through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC)”, wrote Berkley on his Twitter account.

He added that that is enough to protect about 27% of the AMC population, with the prospect of more doses to come through the nations dose-sharing.

“Continuing with fundraising efforts and advancing further deals with manufacturers will remain a top priority for COVAX in 2021. With more than 190 economies involved, now is the time to demonstrate the power of multilateralism because we cannot defeat this virus without unity and solidarity”, Berkley pointed out.

Read more: EC Vice-President Šefčovič says Western Balkans will get vaccines

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