China Supplies Serbia With Vaccines That the EU Would Not
The wisdom of taking jabs for a flu aside, Serbia's mass rollout was only made possible by Chinese supplies
Hundreds of elderly Serbs patiently wait outside one of Belgrade’s vaccination centers, set up in a vacant trade fair hall near the Sava River. Sometimes, they have to wait for hours before they’re let inside for their pre-booked appointment. Unlike most Belgrade locals, those queuing here are wearing masks. Once inside, patients are welcomed by nurses, who lead to them to one of three dozen booths to get vaccinated. Most receive China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
Beijing has sent a million doses of this inactivated vaccine (or killed vaccine) to Serbia. The vaccine has several advantages: It is cheaper to produce and less perishable than the mRNA vaccines developed by BioNTech–Pfizer or Moderna. However, the Sinopharm vaccine has an efficacy of only 75% to 80%, according to reports from China, Bahrain, Brazil and Peru.
— Lily Lynch (@lilyslynch) January 24, 2021
“The best vaccine is the one we have readily at our disposal,” says the Serbian minister of public administration and local self-government, Marija Obradovic. Today, she has come to the inoculation center to get immunized herself. Obradovic estimates that some 35,000 vaccine doses are being administered each day. As of Sunday evening, 172,000 Serbs had received the jab.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had personally awaited the delivery of the vaccine doses at Belgrade airport, expressing his gratitude toward China in front of rolling cameras. In Serbia’s pro-government press, Vucic presented himself as the nation’s savior, tirelessly negotiating with foreign governments and authorities to secure coronavirus vaccines.
— Miodrag Soric (@miodragsoric) January 24, 2021
President Vucic has promised to set up factories to begin producing vaccines domestically — as was done when the former Yugoslavia existed. According to media reports, the required equipment will be provided by Moscow. Serbia intends to manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Until production capacities have been ramped up, Serbia is to receive hundreds of thousands of doses from Moscow.
The delivery of Sinopharm vaccine doses to Serbia is a major PR coup for China, according to political scientist Jaksa Scekic. He says that while Western states have managed to supply only a few thousand Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses in the past week, China has gone all out.
Scekic says many Serbs now view China as a true friend who has come through in tough times. He says both China and Russia are instrumentalizing vaccine deliveries for political purposes. Governments of EU member states, in contrast, are forced to coordinate with other EU members and heed economic considerations.
Source: Deutsche Welle
The country’s friendly relations with Beijing and Moscow appear to have paid off for the second time in this pandemic. Back in March last year, when the EU was banning exports of its medical supplies, even to its candidate countries, several planes from China landed in Belgrade and brought much needed protective gear and respirators, some of them as a donation.
Back then the president of Serbia, Alexandar Vucic, lashed out at the EU calling the block’s solidarity “a fairytale”. Billboards with the photo of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Belgrade read: “Thank you brother Xi!” But this time there were no harsh words from the Serbian leaders.
With the latest shipment of a million doses, Serbia became the first, and so far the only country in Europe, with such a quantity of the Chinese jab.