Serbia embraces Chinese Covid jab as rollout leads continental Europe

Belgrade, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Serbia is leading continental Europe’s Covid-19 vaccine drive thanks to its decision to purchase millions of Chinese-produced jabs combined with a well-planned rollout strategy.

The Balkan nation’s health authorities on Friday said they had administered a total of 1.37 million doses to a population of around seven million, which means almost 19.6% of the population have had at least one shot, compared to the European Union average of 6.6%.

Around 75% of the vaccines in Serbia come from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm but health workers also have access to shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca — two of three that have been approved in the EU so far — and Russia’s Sputnik V.

Unlike in other countries, Serbians can choose which vaccine they prefer, although, in reality, the abundance of the Sinopharm vaccines means it is often the quickest route to immunization.

“Serbia has been guided, above all, by medical pragmatism when it comes to acquiring the vaccine,” Suzana Grubjesic, deputy president of the Center for Foreign Policy, tells Efe.

She adds that, at the beginning of the pandemic, during the EU’s tight restrictions on personal protective equipment exports, Belgrade secured masks and respirators from Russia and China, countries Serbia has maintained close relations with for decades.

Belgrade’s vaccine procurement has followed a similar path.

“The EU has allowed China to eclipse it in the Balkans,” Grubjesic says, although she acknowledges that Brussels has provided emergency financial support to the region.

Serbian vaccine applicants can book an appointment online.

Branko Jovanovic, a 67-year-old retiree, has already received his two doses of the Sinopharm shot and is full of praise for his country’s vaccine strategy.

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