PRISTINA — Kosovo has received its first shipment of a vaccine against COVID-19 as it becomes the last country in Europe to start an immunization program.
Kosovo received its first consignment of 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX donation program on March 28.
The Balkan nation will receive a total of 100,800 doses of the vaccine via the scheme.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti said the government will start administering the vaccinations immediately.
“This is a small consignment, but (it) inspires a lot of hope in our country that we will begin saving lives, especially those of our medical staff and the population groups at risk,” Kurti told media at the Pristina airport as the vaccines arrived.
Kurti said Kosovo was not a wealthy country and needed international support, especially from the United States and the European Union, to help battle the deadly virus.
Washington and Brussels are the main contributors to the COVAX program.
Kosovo Health Minister Arben Vitia said that medical staff will be the first to get vaccinated.
A few hundred Kosovo health workers were vaccinated last week in Albania.
Kosovo is in negotiations with Pfizer to acquire doses of its drug against COVID-19, but no agreement has yet been reached.
The European Union announced on March 27 that the Western Balkans will receive 650,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the European Union.
Kosovo plans to immunize its population in three phases with the first phase consisting of health workers, nursing home patients, citizens over 80 years old, and those with chronic diseases.
The second phase will focus on workers employed in education, people involved in managing the pandemic, and those aged 65 to 79.
In the third phase, the state will vaccinate 50 percent of the population.
On March 28, Kosovo registered 914 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the start of the year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kosovo has registered 87,981 cases and 1,840 deaths.