Vaccination in Kosovo to start tomorrow

koronav vakcine Kosovo AstraZeneka
FOTO: Ministarstvo zdravlja Kosova

Kosovo Minister of Health, Arben Vitia, announced to the mayors of the municipalities in Kosovo today that the vaccination process will start tomorrow, Pristina-based Koha reports. The announcement arrives after the first doses of coronavirus vaccines – 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, were delivered to Kosovo last night via the COVAX program, and received by Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, and the Kosovo Minister of Health, Arben Vitia.

Vitia announced to the Kosovo mayors today that the vaccination process will begin tomorrow at the Infectious Diseases Clinic and in the hall “1st October” in Pristina, and on Thursday and Friday in other municipalities, Koha writes.

„With the arrival of the first contingent of vaccines, medical staff who are on the front lines and people over the age of 80, with severe chronic diseases, will be vaccinated first,“ the Association of Kosovo Municipalities said in a statement, Koha reports.

According to some Pristina media reports, out of 24,000 doses of the vaccine, 13,000 are intended for medical staff, and 11,000 for elderly citizens over the age of 80 who suffer from chronic diseases.

Kosovo already has an immunization plan, which was approved by the Hoti-led government in mid-February. The plan envisions vaccination in three phases.

In the first phase, 3% of the population (54,000) is expected to be vaccinated, in the second 17% (306,000), and in the third 50% of the population.

This plan also envisages that vaccination in Serb-majority municipalities will be carried out in the same way as in other municipalities. In the first phase, 11,000 doses of vaccines will be allocated for 5,400 health workers and the elderly in these municipalities.

Vitia asked the mayors for cooperation in dealing with the pandemic, urging the municipalities to continue to operate in accordance with the measures in force.

He also said that the assessment of the epidemiological situation in Kosovo is underway, and that any changes in measures will be decided in cooperation with the municipal authorities.

The statement added that the mayors expressed readiness to continue cooperating on the process of immunization of the population.

The statement further states that the preparation process for the distribution of vaccines has already begun in the hall „1st October” in Pristina.

The shipment, which arrived in Kosovo last night, was received by Pristina officials led by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Kosovo Health Minister Arben Vitia.

„It is a small shipment, but it raises hopes for saving people’s lives“, Kurti said last night. He reiterated that he will be working non-stop to provide as many vaccines as possible.

The acting head of the EU Office in Kosovo, Ricardo Serri, announced the arrival of new doses in the coming weeks.

Kosovo Minister of Health, Arben Vitia, called on the citizens to continue to respect the measures, noting that the arrival of the first doses does not mean that the pandemic has come to an end.

The vaccine welcoming ceremony was attended by international representatives, including the US ambassador to Pristina, Philip Kosnett, and the British ambassador, Nicholas Abbott, who congratulated Kosovo on social networks.

The first contingent of 24,000 vaccines is only part of a total of 100,800 doses that should arrive in Kosovo in the first half of the year through the COVAX program, as the EU previously announced. It is planned that a total of 700,000 doses will be delivered via COVAX this year.

The vaccines provided through COVAX, however, are not the first vaccines to enter Kosovo’s territory. The first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines were made by Serbian health authorities late last year. This vaccination process was halted only a few days later, following the reaction of the Pristina authorities and the actions of the Kosovo political and civil public, after which the Prosecutor’s Office in Mitrovica opened an investigation into the delivery of these vaccines. This led to a protest of health workers from the north after several of their colleagues were questioned by the police.

The Serbian authorities then organized vaccination for the inhabitants of Kosovo in the nearby towns of Raska, Bujanovac, Kursumlija, and Vranje. These vaccinations are carried out regularly, while the Kosovo authorities have denied that Albanians are also receiving vaccines within the Serbian healthcare system – although the reports from the field claim otherwise.

During the pre-election campaign in Kosovo at the beginning of the year, the then authorities announced that Kosovo will receive its first vaccines in February – which did not happen. During that time, the Serbian President repeatedly offered vaccines to Kosovo – an offer Kosovo continually refused.

Albania, which also obtained a smaller number of vaccines, came to Kosovo’s rescue, whose help was immediately accepted by the Kosovo authorities. The first 250 healthcare workers from Kosovo were vaccinated last Saturday in Kukes, and another 200 workers were vaccinated in the meantime.

The head of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, Berat Rukiqi, recently refused the help of his colleagues from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, stating that it was “a matter of principle.” The decision was made despite the representatives of the chambers of commerce in Belgrade and Pristina boasting of good cooperation for years.

While welcoming businessmen from the region in front of a vaccination site in Belgrade on Saturday, Rukiqi’s Serbian counterpart Marko Cadez confirmed that some Kosovo businessmen have also registered for the vaccine.

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