Serbia vaccinates hard … its neighbors

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As of Saturday morning, lines of cars stretched out at the borders of Serbia. Regional champion in terms of vaccination, the country opened free vaccination centers this weekend for all non-resident foreigners. A boon for the countries of the Western Balkans, where the doses promised by the EU via the Covax mechanism are long overdue.

Saturday, in Belgrade, in the crowd waiting to receive the precious injection, we could see Adis Zvekic and Almir Hasanbegovic, musicians of Dubioza Kolektiv, the rock group from Sarajevo, where Goran Cerkez, the deputy minister of health of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We are not going to wait for the authorities in Sarajevo to decide to take action and manage to find vaccines”, explained the musicians.

Our logistics follow-up:
From laboratory to syringe, six cities, four countries and two oceans

An air of Yugoslavia

In the growing line in front of Hall 3 of the Belgrade Fair, transformed into a huge vaccination center, Yugoslavia was reforming a bit, with Bosnians, Croats and Montenegrins being the most numerous. Macedonians were invited to be vaccinated in Nis, the large city in southern Serbia.

On Saturday, thousands of people had already been vaccinated, but the Serbian authorities, overwhelmed by their success, called on Bosnian nationals not to take to the road on Sunday. A system for making appointments on the eUprava government server should be put in place in the coming days for foreign citizens, as it is already for Serbs.

However, certain categories were entitled to preferential treatment. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce had reserved 10,000 doses of AstraZeneca for entrepreneurs from the Western Balkans: those from Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina had to go to the Belexpo Center in Belgrade, those from Montenegro in a dedicated area of ​​the Fair- exposure…

Abundance of goods

Serbia has negotiated directly with suppliers, and it has a wide “range” of vaccines, with Pfizer / BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Russian vaccine Sputnik, but especially Chinese Sinopharm, which arrived in January. . This abundance had already enabled the authorities in Belgrade to oblige their neighbors, by offering a few thousand doses to Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia or Montenegro.

And Belgrade seems determined to leave no one behind. Vaccination began on Saturday in refugee centers on the way to the EU, which still host nearly 8,000 people. In recent days, a vaccination point has also been opened at the Roma Cultural Center in Nis: it was feared that this community, affected by diabetes and overweight, would stay away, due to its poor internet access.

Serbian paradox

There is, however, a Serbian paradox: after a fanfare start that propelled the country to second in the European vaccination rate after the United Kingdom, the campaign seems to be stalling, with nearly 20% of the population having received a first Sunday dose. The epidemic continues to flare, however, with dozens of deaths each day and a 14-day prevalence rate of around 500 per 100,000 inhabitants.

No one in Serbia seems to be complaining about the generosity shown to neighboring countries, but hope is reborn in the Balkans, as Kosovo, North Macedonia and Montenegro finally received their very first deliveries of AstraZeneca on Sunday via the Covax mechanism. Thirty thousand doses have also arrived in Sarajevo, but this is a donation from Turkey to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Read also: Switzerland has secured 8.1 million doses of vaccine against Covid-19