Serbia's leader proud of giving citizens Chinese vaccine
Updated 20:51, 04-Feb-2021
A plane transporting one million doses of Chinese Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine arrives at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia, January 16, 2021. /Reuters

A plane transporting one million doses of Chinese Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine arrives at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia, January 16, 2021. /Reuters

Serbia's leader expressed his gratitude to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday for the 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine the country received, saying he is proud Serbia became the first European country to give its population the shots made in China. 

After meeting with the Chinese ambassador in Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that by receiving the Sinopharm vaccine, "the citizens of our country expressed deep trust in the Chinese vaccine and with that also in the Chinese state and Chinese experts."

This was not the first time President Vucic publicly praised China. He kissed the Chinese flag when China delivered masks and other protective equipment in March 2020 and criticized the European Union (EU) for an alleged lack of solidarity at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

This time, Vucic was less critical of the EU but still confessed he "felt sick" when learning that some member nations secured vaccine doses multiple times above the number needed to inoculate their populations while holding back on deliveries to poorer countries.

Through deals with manufacturers and governments, Belgrade has so far secured a million doses of vaccine from China and tens of thousands of doses from other producers, allowing it to have the second-highest vaccination rate in Europe, behind only the UK.

On Tuesday, Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Brnabic contributed the country's success of fast rollout on mass vaccination to its views of seeing vaccines as healthcare and not a geopolitical issue. 

"I think Serbia was one of the few countries that looked on vaccine purchase and distribution as a healthcare issue and not a political issue. That's why we are that successful," said Brnabic, during a video interview with Euronews.

She also added the world would look different if every country shares such a view. 

"We decided to run fast on all possible tracks," Brnabic said. Serbia has signed with many vaccine producers, including Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, Sputnik V, and Pfizer/BioNtech, as well as participated in the COVAX scheme of the World Health Organization and donated to EU's development of the vaccines. 

Brnabic also acknowledged the Chinese vaccine, saying: "The only relevant matter for us is it's a safe and effective vaccine." 

Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said over 700 members of the military, including himself, had been inoculated with the Chinese vaccine, Reuters reported on January 19. 

"I have been inoculated with the Chinese vaccine, which we completely trust ... I've said I will get the same vaccine as our troops," Stefanovic said. 

More than 20,000 Serbians have been vaccinated so far since the mass inoculation began in late December. 

(With input from agencies)

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