Kosovo has administered the vast majority of the 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it received in March, with the rollout seeing some doctors reluctant to be vaccinated and confusion over registration.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Faik Hoti has told BIRN that nearly all of the 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 that Kosovo acquired in March have been administered.
The vaccination process began on March 29, with Prime Minister Albin Kurti receiving the first jab at the 1 Tetori sports hall in Prishtina. The rollout continued at the sports hall as well as at the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo, before expanding to Family Medicine Centres across the country.
Health workers, citizens over 80 and other elderly citizens with chronic health conditions have been prioritised.
However, there has been some reluctance to receive the vaccine, including amongst health professionals. The Ministry of Health told BIRN that of 4,573 doctors that were envisioned to receive a first dose, only 1,816 did so, less than 40 percent.
Renowned microbiologist Lul Raka criticised health workers wary of receiving the jab, stating that those suspicious of the vaccine should look for another profession, and dismissing fears over blood clotting.
“If we compare the risk of blood clots, we see that to date 4 cases of clots have been registered in 1 million vaccinated,” he said. “Any vaccine has side effects, but the fever or transient pain today is much easier than a respiratory tube in intensive care at Covid Hospital tomorrow!”
Early in the vaccination rollout, the Ministry insisted that citizens should wait to receive an invitation to be vaccinated, encouraging people to apply through either the e-Kosova platform or their local family medicine centre.
Many citizens without an appointment were turned away from vaccination centres in the first days of the rollout, leading to complaints about the difficulties of registering elderly citizens, many of whom are not computer savvy.
The Ministry of Health conceded to BIRN that there were instances when unregistered citizens over 80 also received a vaccine following a check up from a doctor present. However, BIRN has encountered numerous cases of citizens receiving a vaccination without an invitation, including those in their 70s.
A further 76,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive in Kosovo by the end of May through the COVAX programme, while 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are anticipated to arrive by the end of June. The European Union has also committed to funding 95,000 doses of an unspecified vaccine arriving in Kosovo between May and August.
However, the Kosovo Government is yet to attain a single dose of any vaccine against COVID-19 following the breakdown of a deal with Pfizer.
Opposition party PDK requested that the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic be discussed in a parliamentary session held on Monday. PDK MP Abelard Tahiri said that the provision of vaccines would be the first item on the agenda.
“This is an urgent issue. We are among the last countries to see the light at the end of the vaccination tunnel, we stand last in Europe,” he said, calling on Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Minister of Health Arben Vitia to provide clarification on the issue.
On Sunday, the National Institute of Public Health announced that there are 10,486 active coronavirus cases in Kosovo, while 2,129 people that have tested positive for the virus have now died. More than a third of deaths have occurred in 2021, with 794 since January 1.
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