Serbia to start COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday

Exterior view of the intensive care department of the new hospital for Covid-19 patients in Belgrade, Serbia, 4 December 2020. [Marko Djokovic/EPA/EFE]

Serbia will begin vaccinating people against COVID-19 on Thursday (24 December), President Aleksandar Vučić said Wednesday, making the Balkan state one of the first in Europe to launch a campaign with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

Officials said Serbia has received nearly 5,000 doses of the vaccine, which is already in use in the United States and Britain.

Meanwhile European Union countries plan to roll out the vaccine on 27 December.

“Vaccination starts tomorrow in Serbia,” Vučić told the press, adding that the first jabs would go to the elderly in retirement homes.

“It is important to protect these people… more than 80% of the people who have died from this terrible virus are the elderly and they are most at risk,” he said.

Serbia, an EU candidate country home to seven million people, has lost almost 2,800 to the novel coronavirus while more than 300,000 have been infected.

Vučić said he hoped for a “massive” vaccination effort to be underway by mid-January, with the aim of vaccinating “hundreds of thousands of people, even a million people” with a first dose.

While Serbia hopes to someday join the EU, the country also nurtures close ties with Moscow and Beijing and plans to add the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine and a jab produced by China’s Sinopharm to its arsenal.

The country’s drug agency is still examining “samples of the other vaccines”, Vučić said.

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The first COVID-19 vaccine will be authorised within a week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced this week, and EU member states have been pressing ahead with plans for mass vaccination programmes while also keeping measures tight to …

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