The Balkan countries will now have access to vital COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate their citizens.
As countries around the world begin to vaccinate their citizens, the European Commission made €70 million available to help fund the access of Western Balkans partners to COVID-19 vaccines procured by EU Member States.
“Throughout the pandemic, the EU has shown that we treat the Western Balkans as privileged partners. We continue to act in this spirit also in the case of vaccines, by taking steps to enable a quick start of vaccination campaigns to critical staff and most vulnerable groups in the region early on. Swift vaccination will be decisive in ending the pandemic and launching the socio-economic recovery of the Western Balkans.” Said Olivér Várhelyi Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement
The package will be disbursed in the form of grants that will help cover the cost of the vaccines for priority groups in the region, as well as necessary vaccination equipment. It will enable the Western Balkans to purchase a number of vaccines from the EU Advance Purchase Agreements with six manufacturers, with individual EU Member States sharing a part of their pre-allocated doses.
While the EU continues to support the COVAX initiative, the world’s facility to ensure fair and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, and all Western Balkans partners have signed up to it, the delivery of vaccines under that scheme is expected to start later than the vaccination campaigns in the EU. Access to a number of doses from the EU purchase agreements will therefore enable the region to start vaccinations in parallel with EU Member States.
The Commission and the European Centre for Disease Control are also assisting the region in finalizing vaccination strategies in line with Commission recommendations to ensure appropriate preparation of the campaigns and seamless administration of the vaccines. The EU is also funding a project with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help manage logistics and the delivery of the vaccines.