European Western Balkans

Serbian citizens informed about side effects of Western, but not Russian and Chinese vaccines

COVID-19 vaccination; Photo: Flickr / Nycmayorsoffice

BELGRADE – „Building immunisation to disinformation“  is the title of the latest report of the EU, in which the European Union warns globally about the spread of disinformation about the vaccine. According to the report, the organized campaign, which aims to underline trust in vaccine from the West comes from the Kremlin. The European Union has recognized more than 60 different disinformation and conspiracy theories when it comes to the vaccine, and some of them are present in our country as well.

The year of coronavirus in Serbia was fertile ground for spreading numerous disinformations. The choice of the vaccine in Serbia influenced by foreign policy preferences. I order to demonstrate to the citizens that all vaccines are safe, officials in Serbia decided to receive different vaccines. Although in other countries the practice of state officials being the first to receive the vaccine can be seen, in order to instil confidence in all of their citizens that the vaccines are safe, in Serbia, it seems, the decision which officials receive which vaccine is deeply connected with their geopolitical views.

We remind you that the Pfizer vaccine was received by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, while the Russian vaccine was received by the President of the Assembly Ivica Dačić and the Minister of Interior Aleksandar Vulin.

On that occasion, Vulin stated that he wanted to get “the Russian vaccine specifically” because he believes in Russian medicine.

The alleged dominance of Russia in the finding of the first vaccine against coronavirus is of the disinformation that the EU warns in the latest report, which spread in the Serbian public without specific scientific ground. At the same time, in addition to glorifying Russian achievements, disinformation about the disastrous consequences of vaccines from the West is spreading in the Serbian media and on social media.

It is noticeable that the Serbian media are full of information about the adverse reactions of Norwegians, Israelis, and others to Western vaccines, while the Serbia citizens remain deprived of the adverse reactions of Russian and Chinese vaccines.

Last week, Pavle Zelić from the National Medical Devices Agency of Serbia (ALIMS) said that 20 adverse reactions coronavirus vaccines had been reported in Serbia, but that these were short-term consequences that were not a cause for concern.

According to Radio Free Europa (RFE) from the Facebook group “Serbia and Russia Orthodoxy”, a post was shared about the adverse reactions to the Pfizer vaccine with Zelić’s statement, and accidentally or not, the part of the statement that says that reactions are normal was omitted, so there were no serious adverse reactions. This post, evident disinformation, has been shared 424 ties on this social network.

That not all vaccines coming to Serbia have the same treatment is also shown by the fact that the Chinese vaccine, whose million doses arrived in Serbia, was personally met at the airport by the President of Serbia, while ALIMS has not yet registered the vaccine. That this fact is not unimportant, say the findings of Demostat’s survey, which show that 7% of Serbian citizens would receive only the vaccine recommended to them by President Vučić.

The statement of the State Secretary of Health, Mirsad Đerlek, that “the Chinese vaccine is really high quality, tested on a large number of people”, can be interpreted as a message to the citizens that this vaccine is really the best.

What is known for now is that the Sinopharm vaccine was distributed to almost a million people in China as part of the emergency program, and the controversy was caused by the fact that Sinopharm was used before the results of the third phase of testing were announced.

By the end of December 2020, Sinopharm announced that testing in the third phase showed that this vaccine has an effectiveness of 79 per cent, which is less than Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. However, the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, which approved the Sinopharm vaccine at the beginning of 2021, announced that the efficiency is 86%, based on the first results of the third phase of testing. The spokesperson of Sinopharm decline to explain the difference in results, saying detailed data would be released later in January.

Although it is good that citizens can decide for themselves whether and which vaccine they will receive, they do not have full information about each vaccine and their adverse reactions. In addition to the lack of information, citizens in Serbia are also exposed to confuse information. That is why it is important that the competent institutions clearly and promptly inform the citizens about all important issues related to the vaccination.

Lawyer Sofija Mandić told N1 that the citizens of Serbia who try to determine which vaccine is safe on the website of the ALIS, the primary institution when it comes to vaccination, only have information that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, without any trace of the vote about other, neither Chinese nor Russian.

Pointing to the fact that the media are the ones who announce that the vaccine has received a permit, Mandić noted that it is not possible to find that information on the ALIMS’ website.

“It seems to me that only the media announce which vaccine is approved and which is not. It also seems to me that by receiving vaccines, by waiting at airports, there is pressure on the ALIMS. That does not instil confidence in me and it is not good”, Mandić told.

Mandić emphasized that vaccines against coronavirus did not receive the same permit as vaccines with which citizens are usually vaccinated against other infectious diseases because they are obtained for five years.

“It is obvious that conditions have been set for the produces to obtain a permit of a regular nature, without anyone telling us that”, she concluded.

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