Bosnia and Herzegovina’s foreign minister has voiced anger over the fact that her country has yet to receive any of the promised vaccines from the European Union-backed COVAX scheme, saying Bosnians are “justifiably unhappy”.
“We expect COVAX to fulfil its contractual obligations,” Bosnian foreign minister Bisera Turkovic told a news conference during a visit to the German capital, Berlin on Tuesday.
She said Bosnia had met its obligations and paid for more than 1.2 million doses through the international COVAX scheme, a global vaccine-sharing effort, but “not a single dose” has arrived to date.
“Our citizens are justifiably unhappy,” Turkovic told reporters, speaking alongside German foreign minister Heiko Maas.
“Every day counts. We’re talking about people’s lives,” she said, in remarks translated to German.
The Balkan nation of 3.5 million people has recorded more than 5,000 deaths from COVID-19, giving it one of the world’s highest per-capita mortality rates from the virus.
Bosnian authorities have looked elsewhere for help, procuring some 22,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID vaccine which is being doled out in the country’s Serb-dominated half, Republika Srpska.
Neighbouring Serbia last week donated 10,000 AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines, which will be distributed in the country’s other post-war entity, the Croat-Bosniak federation.
German foreign minister Maas said he regretted the delayed start to the COVAX rollout but the pace would pick up soon.
COVAX is set to deliver more than a million vaccine doses to western Balkan countries “in the coming weeks and until the end of May”, including 130,000 for Bosnia, he said.
“I can understand that this isn’t fast enough for many, and of course I see that there are others offering vaccines and who expect favourable political conduct in return,” Maas added.
“But I am firmly convinced that despite the delay that nobody is pleased about … we can finally start delivering a large number of vaccines to the western Balkans.”