Main Image Via The Straits Times
While the rest of the world struggles to get enough COVID-19 vaccinations, Serbia is fighting a different battle: convincing its people to get the life-saving vaccine.
The tiny Balkan country has ample amounts of vaccines that they can provide vaccinations to any foreigner, resulting in so-called "vaccine tourists" from neighbouring countries.
The rate slowed after Serbia vaccinated those who came forward. According to data gathered by AFP from official sources, the number of people receiving their first dose fell to about 12,000 per day in the last two weeks of March, approximately half the number received in the same timeframe in February.
Serbia took the unprecedented step last week of allowing foreign citizens to apply for the shot. The vaccine has also been made available to migrants.
Serbian residents who had not been vaccinated were also encouraged to simply turn up without an appointment, according to the authorities.
“I beg you, people, get a vaccine,” Serbian populist President Aleksandar Vucic pleaded. “We have them and we will have more, I beg you, in the name of God, take them,“ he said.
According to Serbia's leading epidemiologist, Predrag Kon, the lack of interest is "solely a consequence" of fear mongers circulating anti-vaccine misinformation online.
Many citizens who are hesitant to get the vaccine do not consider themselves to be anti-vaxxers. “In these crazy times, I have serious doubts... mostly because of the lack of information from the relevant institutions,” Ivan, a 32-year-old restaurant owner told AFP.
Serbia's Health Minister, Zlatibor Loncar, has proposed banning content on social media sites that contradicts the vaccination process, while police have cracked down on vaccine sceptics, detaining five of them last week for "causing panic."
Slow immunisation associated with a raging pandemic, according to virologists, is the most dangerous combination for creating new variants, even those resistant to the vaccine.
However, the president believes that once he is vaccinated, “half a million” citizens will follow in his footsteps within a week.
Doctors predict that "a lot of Vucic's idols" will decide to get a shot after he does. However, they agree that vaccinating the target 65-80% of the population is still a long way off.
Info Via The Sun Daily