Czech Prime Minister watches Serbia’s mass vaccination campaign
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic visited Serbia on Wednesday to learn more about the Balkan nation’s mass inoculation program with Chinese and Russian vaccines that have yet to been approved by the pharmaceutical regulator of the European Union.
Czech leader Andrej Babis has sought vaccines outside the EU’s joint program after deliveries from EU-approved Western pharmaceutical companies were delayed. With a team of experts, Babis also visited Hungary last week, which was the first EU country to give the green light to the Russian vaccine.
Thanks to Chinese and Russian vaccines, Serbia is currently second in Europe after Great Britain for per capita vaccination deployment rate.
“I have tried to gather so much information about other vaccines that have not been approved,” Babis said in Belgrade after meeting Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.
Babis told reporters ahead of the trip that the Czech Republic was not ready to use Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine before winning the EU nod from the European Medicines Agency. He said in Belgrade on Wednesday that his EU country wanted to be “ready” once the approval was received.
“It is of the utmost importance for us to get as many safe vaccines as possible,” Babis said. “We should give up politics and talk about people’s health, because the (viral) situation in the Czech Republic is not good.”
The Czech Republic, a country of 10 million people, has recorded more than one million infections and more than 17,600 confirmed virus deaths.
Serbia has so far vaccinated more than half a million people, mainly with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, the Russian Sputnik V and to a lesser extent with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Serbian populist leaders have cultivated close ties with China and Russia, both of which vie for influence in the strategically important region of southwestern Europe.
Brnabic said the country’s experience with the three vaccines was “excellent”.
Babis’ visit included a visit to a mass inoculation center in Belgrade. Officials announced a new round of mass vaccinations with the arrival later Wednesday of an additional 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
The Czech Ministry of Health has announced that a Moderna vaccine delivery scheduled for Monday will be delayed by a week and that only half of the expected dozen, 44,000, will arrive.