TIRANA, Albania — Albania's prime minister on Monday was among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with a dose that the country has received from an undisclosed European Union member.
Edi Rama said he was "not authorized" to say which EU country had provided 975 doses. Albania's main vaccination campaign is due to start next week.
Rama was inoculated after the head of the infectious diseases hospital where most people infected with the virus go first. Rama said he did it to show that it "not only is safe but that it is the weapon to kill this invisible enemy."
Rama repeated complaints made by several countries in the Western Balkans that the European Union has left them behind in its vaccination program.
"The strategy and direction set from the EU to invest in the COVAX scheme has proved to be undefined in time," Rama said, referring to an international initiative to ensure vaccines are available in lower-income countries.
"If we waited for COVAX we still would be waiting and no one knows how long that would last," he added.
The government has contracted 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, of which the first 10,000 are due to arrive next week.
Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said personnel directly involved in the country's four infectious diseases hospitals would be the first to get the vaccine, followed by the rest of the 23,000 health personnel and people over 75.
The vaccination of these groups is expected to be completed in a few months. The vaccine is not mandatory.
Albania has had 1,241 virus-related deaths and 63,595 confirmed cases as of Sunday, according to the Health Ministry.
Authorities have imposed many lockdown measures to contain a further spread of the pandemic, including a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, mandatory mask wearing, restrictions on indoor gatherings and online classes for university students.