In March last year, Serbian President Alexander Vucic kissed the Chinese flag when he was greeted by masks and other scarce supplies from China at Belgrade Airport. This move caused exclamation in Europe. In recent days, even among Vucic’s most stubborn opponents, many believe that the president’s efforts to establish good relations with Beijing have paid off. Because on the European continent, Serbia has the fastest vaccination rate.
Serbia is far ahead of Germany, France and all other EU countries. how can that be? Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar explained the country’s success so far in an interview with this newspaper: Unlike Western countries, Serbia is committed to obtaining vaccines from all suppliers. Therefore, in addition to Pfizer/German Biotech's vaccines, Russia's "Satellite V" vaccine and China's Sinopharm vaccine have also been on the market in Serbia for several weeks.
Lonchar said that he tried to dispel doubts about Sinopharm's vaccine through his own practice. "In order to convince the most stubborn skeptics, I am not only Serbia, but also the first person in Europe to be vaccinated against China."
The decisive reason why Serbia is currently leading the vaccination competition is China. So far, the latter has provided Serbia with 1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine-a considerable amount for Serbia with a population of 7 million. When the first batch of vaccines arrived in the middle of this month, Vucic and the Chinese Ambassador to Serbia greeted them at the airport. Vucic said at the welcome ceremony: "We are proud of our friendly relationship with China." He emphasized that he will work with the Chinese Ambassador for at least 100 days to ensure the delivery of the vaccine.
At the same time, Serbian Minister of Health Loncar expressed his desire to maintain the current rate of vaccination. "Our strategy is to achieve ‘herd immunity’ before the arrival of summer. Although we have embarked on a broad road, we are also paying special attention to the situation in the fall, because we need to prepare for the new COVID-19 vaccination cycle and flu season."
In the face of Serbia’s success, neighboring countries envy and doubt it. Criticisms of their respective governments are increasing because they believe too much in obtaining vaccines through the Covid-19 Vaccine Implementation Plan (COVAX). The plan is mainly funded by the European Union and implemented by the World Health Organization. It aims to ensure that countries with weak economies can obtain vaccines regardless of their financial resources. But some critics say that instead of relying solely on the COVAX plan, it is better to follow the path of bilateral negotiations like Serbia.