The London-based Economist magazine described Serbia on Thursday as "poor, autocratic and happy to take vaccines from Russia and China."
It added the country was ahead of almost all European Union’s states in vaccinating its population, adding that Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic’s foreign policy strategy not to put all eggs in the same basket paid off.
The article followed the CNN report from Belgrade that included a short interview with Vucic, who said that saving lives was Serbia’s priority, not the geopolitics, referring to the vaccines available in his country from both the East and the West.
„Serbia may not have had such glowing press coverage since the first world war. A poor country by European standards and plagued by corruption, it nonetheless has one of the world’s fastest covid-19 vaccination campaigns—third in Europe in total doses delivered per person. Thousands of Bosnians, Macedonians and Montenegrins have crossed the border for free jabs. President Aleksandar Vucic has been having a good pandemic,“ the magazine said.
It added that „on the government’s health website Serbs can sign up to receive a Chinese vaccine, a Russian one, a Western one or whatever is available. About three-quarters of the shots given so far are Chinese. To obtain the sought-after Pfizer vaccine, you may need contacts. Foreigners get AstraZeneca, possibly because many locals do not y locals do not want it. By March 27th 20% of Serbs had had at least one dose. Mr Vucic crowed that 30-year-olds in Germany would have to wait for ages to get their first jab.“
The Economist said Vucic bought vaccines in Europe, Russia and China and signed contracts to produce the Russian and Chinese vaccines in Serbia.
It alleged that both Moscow and Bejing hoped to undermine Serbia’s people trust in the European Union with its immunisation policy,
The opinion polls, the Economist said, showed that work but that some Serbs thought China expected something in return.
The magazine added the EU promised Serbia help for the recovery but hadn’t donated vaccines yet.
In the meantime, securing vaccines helped Vucic present himself as a regional leader, the Economist wrote, recalling that thousands of foreign nationals, mainly from the neighbouring countries, had been immunised in Serbia.
The Economist warned that Serbia’s health system was exhausted, that many of the medical staff had left the country, and that number of infected was on the rise, partly due to conspiracy theories.
It quoted a study showing 70 percent of Serbia’s people believed in at least one conspiracy theory about COVID-19, like one that it was a weapon. In comparison, 25 percent of the western European population shared a similar opinion.