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Balkan Nations Struggle to Get Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

Αssociated Press

A man wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus walks by closed shop, with the image of Mona Lisa on the shutters, in downtown Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — When thousands of people across the European Union began rolling up their sleeves last month to get a coronavirus vaccination shot, one corner of the continent was left behind, feeling isolated and abandoned: the Balkans.

Balkan nations have struggled to get access to COVID-19 vaccines from multiple companies and programs, but most of the nations on Europe’s southeastern periphery are still waiting for their first vaccines to arrive, with no firm timeline for the start of their national inoculation drives.

What is already clear is that Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — home to some 20 million people — will lag far behind the EU’s 27 nations and Britain in efforts to reach herd immunity by quickly vaccinating a large number of their people.

North Macedonian epidemiologist Dragan Danilovski compared the current vaccine situation to the inequalities seen during the 1911 sinking of the Titanic.

“The rich have grabbed all the available lifeboats, leaving the less fortunate behind,” Danilovski told broadcaster TV 24.