Boemi, Sputnik, and Raska

FOTO: KoSSev

By Ivan Mitic

Raska is a beautiful town with a rich history. Situated on the Ibar River, under Kopaonik, 80 kilometers south of Kraljevo and 60 kilometers north of North Mitrovica, for years now, it is also perceived as yet another administrative center by those who come through the Jarinje crossing. From applying for ID cards, driver’s and traffic licenses, to documents on the origin of goods for customs, shopping in retail chains, buying medicine, all the way to the latest service – immunization against COVID-19 – this is what makes Raska a frequent destination.

Last year, the Kosovo authorities did not allow the immunization of the population through the Serbian health system in the territory of Kosovo. That is why citizens living in Serb-majority areas are getting their coronavirus jabs in one of the three cities in central Serbia. Those south of the Ibar – in Bujanovac and Kursumlija, while those in the north – in Raska.

Foto: KoSSev

At the very entrance to this small town, fifty meters from the church of St. Sava, the banquet hall „Boemi“ can be found. For months now, this hall has not been used for its intended purpose – celebrations. The sign that stood above the entrance was replaced with a new one – „COVID-19 Vaccination Checkpoint.“

The immunization of the citizens from the north of Kosovo is being carried out at this checkpoint for months now – including this morning. Just before 8 o’clock, the first health workers arrived, carrying a portable refrigerator containing the vaccines that have just been taken out of storage.

And while Raska is slowly waking up, the first cars arrive in the parking lot in front of the hall – mostly with KM license plates. There are also a smaller number of vehicles with Raska license plates.

Health workers from the North Mitrovica Clinical Center also came to get vaccinated – some took a taxi, some by car, while a larger group of them arrived by bus with Cacak license plates.

The vaccines were in great demand today. Approximately 150 people were on the list from the North Mitrovica Clinical Center alone. One of the main reasons for it is that, in addition to the Chinese and Pfizer vaccines, doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine arrived this week – which many citizens have been waiting for.

The parking filled up fast, the silence died out, while a growing crowd gathered in front of the vaccination point.

It is now 8:05 am. The checkpoint is open, and the authorities ask those present to fill out the consent form. Some have already done so and were the first to be allowed to be vaccinated.

And while the first doses are slowly thawing, the front hall is getting more crowded. Experienced staff divides those present into two groups. Some are waiting in front of the facility, while those who were among the first to give their consent for vaccination are in the „waiting room“ – at the same tables where guests used to sit at celebrations.

FOTO: KoSSev

The immunization point in Raska includes four seats for vaccine administration, and that is exactly the reason why the vaccination process itself is relatively fast. Those who were called immediately before receiving their dose were informed what they need to do in case they got a fever.

„Take the drug Febricet“ – reads one of the instructions of medical staff.

„Did you feel pain or a cramp?“ – the nurse asked me, explaining that the vaccines had just been taken out to stand at room temperature. Storing this vaccine at the proper temperature is important for its effectiveness.

Although I do not remember exactly what I replied, her professionalism – patience, and kindness left an impression on me. These health workers have been vaccinating thousands of people for months.

And when the whole process is done, you are given the vaccination certification, along with the date when you will receive the second dose.

Citizens from Kosovo must first register for vaccination in health centers, after which their vaccinations are scheduled. Transportation to one of the three vaccination points is organized, but many people come by car – as I did this morning.

New groups of people interested in vaccination will take buses to one of these three points tomorrow, including another group of health workers from North Mitrovica.

According to data announced at the beginning of the week from the North Mitrovica Hospital Center, more than 13,000 people from the Kosovo Serb-majority areas received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and almost 11,000 people were revaccinated.

At the end of the month, I will come again for the second dose of Sputnik. In the meantime, my responsibility will be, as I was advised, to continue to respect protective measures and try my best, as I did so far, to avoid getting infected.

Ivan Mitic is a journalist-editor of KoSSev

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