Western Balkans to receive first COVAX vaccines from AstraZeneca/SKBio

By bne IntelliNews February 3, 2021

The first COVID-19 vaccines for the six Western Balkans countries through the COVAX system will come from AstraZeneca, according to a report released on February 3.

So far Serbia — whose vaccination programme is one of the most advanced in Europe — and Albania are the only Western Balkans countries that have started vaccinating their citizens while other states from the region are still waiting to receive vaccines. 

The COVAX initiative should be able to reach at least 27% of the population of lower-income countries across the world in 2021.

The first interim distribution forecast for the first half of 2021 showed that Albania will receive 141,600 dozes of AstraZeneca vaccines, manufactured by South Korea’s SK Bioscience, Kosovo 100,800, Montenegro 84,000, North Macedonia 103,200 and Serbia (345,600), while Bosnia & Herzegovina will receive 153,600 dozes of AstraZeneca and 23,400 dozes of Pfizer. 

Moldova, which has also signed up to the COVAX programme will receive 156,000 dozes of AstraZeneca and 24,570 dozes of Pfizer.

European Investment Bank (EIB) president Werner Hoyer welcomed the publication of the first interim distribution forecast of the COVAX initiative, which marks a key step in enabling equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Last December, the EIB agreed to provide €400mn of financing to support the participation of low and middle income economies in COVAX Advance Market Commitment.

“With these indicative allocations, governments and public health experts can now initiate the steps needed for a successful initial roll-out of COVID vaccines to frontline healthcare workers—the first part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation ever mounted,” said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore on publication of the interim distribution forecast. 

“This work has already begun. For example, Bosnia & Herzegovina is one of the countries that will be an early recipient of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra cold chain storage. UNICEF is providing Bosnia & Herzegovina with eight refrigerators that will be able to store vaccines in temperatures as low as -80° Celsius. The first two refrigerators recently arrived and will be distributed to locations agreed with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The rest will follow as soon as possible.”


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