Albanian parliament agrees on mandating vaccines for ministers

Following almost an entire day of debate, Albanian lawmakers have voted to extend the EU-backed judicial reform that includes the vetting of prosecutors and judges. [EPA-EFE / Malton DIBRA]

Albanian Parliament voted yesterday in favour of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all parliamentarians, in the hopes of encouraging vaccination uptake.

Both the Socialist Party majority and opposition parties agreed that Members of Parliament should lead by example by getting vaccinated.

Taulant Balla, leader of the Socialist Party’s parliamentary group, said,  “Parliament is giving Albanian citizens a good example today. Vaccination is the only way to slow down the pandemic.”

The government has also said it will hold all parliamentary committee debates online and it’s even providing MPs with free laptops. This decision was criticised by the opposition, who claim it’s a move to avoid scrutiny.

In August, the government announced that all healthcare workers,  teachers, and students over 18 must get vaccinated. They laid down a deadline of 30 September to comply. Just two weeks later, a further announcement stipulated that police, pharmacists, state administration workers, and laboratory technicians must get jabbed.

The decisions were met with mixed responses. Some praised the mandating of vaccines to fight the virus, while others claimed it violated their rights.

According to data from the Albanian Ministry of Health, some 747,441 adults have been vaccinated to date. This equates to 26% of the population, lower than the EU average but on a par with regional neighbours.

Albanians can choose between the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, Russia’s Sputnik, or limited amounts of AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Vaccines are available freely throughout the country, yet uptake has remained low. This is due in part to misinformation circulating in Albanian media and on social media platforms.

Earlier this month, the European Commission announced it would recognise Albania’s COVID-19 vaccination certificate as equal to its own.

The EU has donated 150,000 Pfizer vaccines to Albania. The last batch, facilitated by Austria, was delivered on 23 August.

In May, Croatia announced it would donate some 20,000 doses to the country, along with a further 20,000 from Greece, as a part of the COVAX vaccine sharing plan. COVAX comprises several international organisations, including the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Albanian health chiefs are mulling whether to roll out booster doses for the elderly. They are also considering the vaccination of the over 12’s who have ‘at-risk’ due to chronic health conditions.

Since the start of the pandemic, the EU Accession- hopeful has registered 150,998 cases and 2,609 deaths.

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