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Serbia innoculates neighbours as other Balkan countries receive doses of China's vaccine

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Serbia innoculates neighbours as other Balkan countries receive doses of China's vaccine
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Thousands of vaccine-seekers from Serbia's neighbouring countries flocked to Belgrade over the weekend after Serbian authorities offered free coronavirus jabs for foreigners.

Police kept watch as long lines of Bosnians, Montenegrins and North Macedonians, sometimes entire families, formed in front of the main vaccination centre in the Serbian capital.

Unlike Serbia, which boasts of having an ample supply of vaccines, many Balkan countries have severe shortages of jabs and have barely started mass inoculations.

"We don't have vaccines (in Macedonia). I came here to get vaccinated. We are very grateful because we can get vaccinated quicker than in Macedonia," said Zivko Trajkovski, who's from North Macedonia.

"To me this is still one country (homeland). It does not make any difference, Bosnia or Serbia. It does not matter," said Zoran Dedic who arrived in Serbia from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serbia has already donated smaller quantities of vaccines to North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

The country has one of the highest inoculation rates in Europe, mainly thanks to large purchases of Chinese Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik V vaccines. Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots have also been administered.

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines arrive in North Macedonia

North Macedonia received its first batch of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines through the COVAX initiative on Sunday.

A shipment of 24,000 doses landed at the country's main airport near the capital Skopje.

The nation's health minister Venko Filipce said the first 20,000 people who will be immunized with this shipment would be those over 75 and chronically ill.

The vaccination process will start from Wednesday next week.

North Macedonia has been struggling with shortages of vaccines and has barely started its mass vaccination drive.

The tiny Balkan country began administrating vaccinations a month ago with about 11,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Russian Sputnik V. The first to get the jabs were medical workers.

"Obviously, our expectations with regards to the time of delivery have not been fulfilled as this shipment has arrived after several weeks of delay," said Filipce.

"But having in mind the global demand for vaccines from all over the world, having in mind that all countries of the world are faced with this problem, I think it's good that this (COVAX) system works as it was foreseen."

Chinese Sinovac vaccination delivered to Bosnia

A plane from Ankara landed at Sarajevo airport, delivering a Turkish donation of 30,000 Chinese Sinovac vaccines.

The doses were promised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he recently received members of Bosnia’s Presidency to his country.

Bosnia only received only 50,000 vaccines before the 30,000 from Turkey.

Albania begins mass vaccination campaign

Ahead of the summer tourism season, Albania has started its vaccination campaign after acquiring 192,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine.

Hundreds of people aged 70 and above gathered at Tirana’s main Skanderbeg Square to get a jab in one of two big tents.

Vaccination has proceeded slowly in the Balkan country before the arrival of the Sinovac vaccine, with Albania receiving less than 100,000 Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V doses.

The country has inoculated 65,000 medical personnel, people age 80 and over, and school teachers so far.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Edi Rama went to Turkey and brought back the Sinovac doses. Another 500,000 doses are due to arrive in Albania in two months.

Rama also said Sinovac would build a factory in Albania to produce different vaccines.

The country aims to give at least 10,000 shots a day and to complete 500,000 jabs by June, Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said.

``This process will not stop and our ambitious plan of vaccination aims that in 14 months we complete it (for the entire population) and achieve immunization,'' the minister said.