Serbia: Europe's 2nd-fastest COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Media outlets describe President Aleksandar Vucic as 'Robin Hood' of COVID-19 jabs
Serbia's novel coronavirus vaccine rollout has been the second-fastest in Europe despite EU and other Balkan countries struggling to get their hands on the doses.
Serbia is now second in Europe, after the UK in terms of the number of vaccinated citizens per million inhabitants, according to government reports. It is followed by Malta, Iceland, Denmark, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
Having vaccinated 375,320 people so far, the country is first in its own region of the Western Balkans, followed by Romania, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, and Bulgaria.
President Aleksandar Vucic recently compared the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Europe to the sinking of the Titanic, accusing rich countries of leaving the poorer Balkan nations "to sink."
"This is war! A war for people's lives! A war for every vaccine!" he asserted, speaking on public broadcaster RTS Daily.
"The whole world is one Titanic. The rich save themselves. They provide the boats. Nobody cares about others. However, Serbia has managed to provide a constant supply of vaccines that can save thousands of lives," said Vucic.
Adding that Serbia was the only country where people could choose which vaccine -- Pfizer from the US, Sputnik V from Russia or China's Sinopharm -- to receive.
"Hasn't Serbia learned a lesson from democracy, human rights, and the way it fights for the health of its citizens? No, no, Europe is the cradle of democracy, without a single vaccine, without a shred of mercy for its neighbors, and with a population locked up until who knows when," said Vucic.
No vaccines received
Vucic emphasized Serbia had yet to receive any vaccines from the COVAX Facility initiated by the World Health Organization, despite having a contract for as many as 6.5 million doses.
"Nobody respects contracts. There are threats of lawsuits all over Europe. Deliveries have stopped, production is late and exposed Europe, as well as the entire world, for what it looks like during a crisis," said Vucic.
On the state of the region, Vucic said neighboring countries also lacked any vaccines.
"Look at the surrounding countries. They have zero vaccines. [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is zero, Montenegro is zero, Northern Macedonia is zero. Serbia will help its neighbors," said Vucic.
He underlined that the people who have been left stranded throughout the Western Balkans have not been forgotten by Serbia.
"Be aware of Serbia's leading role in the Balkans. We must [...] offer a hand of cooperation to our neighbors. These are our friends and brothers. We'll send vaccines to Bosnia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia," he said.
Vucic has been described as the "Robin Hood" of the Balkans by some local media outlets, suggesting that he has been taking vaccines from rich countries and saving people in Serbia and the Western Balkans.
Serbia has received 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines developed by China's Sinopharm, along with 19,500 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and 250,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Serbia is currently in a deep-rooted alliance with China, as Beijing has massively invested in the country that it hopes will become a hub of its Belt and Road initiative.
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