Serbia has procured enough vaccines for its population, but as conspiracy theories solidify, many are reluctant to go ahead with the shots

With the third highest vaccination rate in Europe, Serbia is considered a success in the Balkans

Under Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia has procured enough vaccines to vaccinate its seven million residents, but supply is exceeding demand given the hesitant vaccine

Vucic announced in early March that Serbia had nearly 15 million vaccines, but by May 25th In March the Serbian authorities told reporters that only 13 million people had been vaccinated

Last weekend, thousands of foreigners from the region crossed the borders to get free bumps in Serbia000 foreigners vaccinated

As Prime Minister Ana Brnabic later said, at the beginning of April between 20000 and 25000 of the AstraZeneca vaccines in supplies are phasing out

However, some criticized the development, including the United Against Covid group, an initiative by doctors in Serbia

In a statement, the association wrote: “The priority should be to organize a campaign to vaccinate our own people – which does not exist”

The group also urged the government to address vaccine reluctance, saying it should “systematically fight the pointless anti-vaccination positions in government-controlled media”

Thousands of vaccine seekers from Serbia’s neighboring states flocked to Belgrade after Serbian authorities offered free coronavirus shots to foreigners if they showed up over the weekend [Darko Vojinovic / AP] The skepticism about the vaccines offered in Serbia was so great that in early March Vucic asked people to register for vaccinations at a television address

“I beg you, get the vaccine we have [vaccines] and we will have vaccines,” Vucic said, noting that intake rates were only 9.5 percent in some areas

Serbian epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic told Al Jazeera that while Serbia’s sourcing of vaccines has boosted ratings from leaders, less attention has been paid to encouraging people to accept the shots

“We have a populist government that believes it is more important not to lose votes [than to ensure the health of its people],” said Radovanovic

“This is why contradicting messages are being spread by pro-regime media, as both Vaxxers and anti-Vaxxers are allowed access”

According to some analysts, the Serbs have the highest suspicion of vaccines and the highest number of so-called anti-Vax movements in the region

In February, United Against Covid filed a criminal complaint against the Serbian pulmonologist Branimir Nestorovic for violating the medical code of ethics

As a member of the Serbian staff group for coronavirus crises, he had “continuously and persistently” spread falsehoods about the infection to the public via the media, the association said

He had called the coronavirus “silly” – which does not mean dangerous – and claimed that people under 40 could not be infected

In a May 2020 newspaper, he urged Serbs, with the exception of the elderly, to take to the streets to get infected, claiming the epidemic would happen on Nov. June ends

Empty chairs are seen in a temporary coronavirus vaccination center in the sports hall of the Medical High School in Novi Pazar, Serbia [Zorana Jevtic / Reuters] A third of the European population believes in COVID conspiracy theories

In the Western Balkans, more than 75 percent of citizens believe in one or more of six false theories that are often spread on the Internet in the form of fake news with dramatic warnings about vaccination risks

“You will find particularly fertile soil in our environment, where general distrust and xenophobia are widespread,” said Radovanovic

“It’s easy to manipulate a nation that has been deceived and trusted no one for three decades. Doubt is the natural state of things [here] Unfortunately, distrust of the government has spread to all agencies, including doctors, which in the past traditionally enjoyed general respect ”

Molecular biologist at the Milan-based European Institute of Oncology Marija Mihailovic said campaigns should be launched to encourage uptake

“Everyone should get a call, not just from one political party but from all political parties,” said Mihailovic

“The most sensitive generation is those born before the technological boom It is unrealistic to expect these people to sign up for the vaccines themselves, “she said, adding that providing vaccinations at home could also increase rates

Medical workers arrive in the village of Leskovik near the city of Niš in Serbia to vaccinate the locals with the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm COVID-19 [Marko Djurica / Reuters] Mihailovic added that some people don’t understand the intricacies of vaccine approvals

“The EMA (European Medicines Agency), which grants EU vaccine approvals, only makes a statement on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine if the manufacturer applies for the EU market,” said Mihailovic

“Therefore, the current lack of EU approvals for some vaccines has nothing to do with their effectiveness or safety, it simply reflects the fact that these vaccines do not apply to the EU market, which are political and economic rather than medical Questions and I guess we didn’t talk about that at all ”

The World Health Organization warned in late March that Serbia had the fifth highest number of cases in Europe per 100000 people has

Radovanovic said hospitals were full and health workers exhausted, adding that the millionth citizen has only now received the two doses of the vaccine

With only 15 percent of the total population fully vaccinated, this was “not enough to seriously affect the frequency of infection”

According to many experts, immunization of 70 percent of the population is required to achieve herd immunity

Radovanovic said it was also important to note that in addition to the hesitation, mild lockdown measures – “among the weakest in Europe” – contributed to the growing number of cases

“Until [recently, cafes and restaurants] were working at full speed and ski resorts were working undisturbed all the time”

Serbia’s President flies to Sarajevo to deliver AstraZeneca vaccines as planned deliveries from COVAX are delayed

A large shipment of a Chinese vaccine helped Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić improve his political fortune

Residents of neighboring Bosnia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Croatia travel to Belgrade for a COVID-19 shot


World news – FI – In Serbia, supply of COVID vaccines outweighs demand in the face of distrust