PRISTINA (Reuters) – The Kosovo government decided to destroy 133,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines over their expired date of use as the country faces a sharp rise in the coronavirus death rate.
The vaccines that will be destroyed were part of a donation from Norway with August 31 seen as an expiration date.
The decision to destroy vaccines triggered criticism, with some people calling for the resignation of the health minister on the health ministry’s Facebook page.
Unwillingness to take vaccines, technical difficulties when attempting to make an appointment online and propaganda about harm from the vaccines had put Kosovo among the countries with the lowest vaccination rates in Europe at 15.7%.
In the past seven days 157 people died in Kosovo of coronavirus infectionS, and more than 12,0000 new cases were registered among the country’s 1.8 million population.
New cases were attributed to gatherings such as weddings and a complete scrapping of restrictions. Starting from this week new restrictions are in place including a curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m..
Thousands of Kosovars living abroad, mainly in Germany and Switzerland, who have spent holidays in Kosovo during the summer have reported as positive cases when they returned to western European countries.
Kosovo’s Health Minister Arben Vitia said many people refused to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine following “misinformation” that the vaccines already have expired which made people stay away.
In Kosovo people can choose between AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BionTech vaccines. But because of some reports on AstraZeneca vaccines, people mostly have chosen Pfizer/BionTech.
Vitia said that in the coming days Kosovo will receive 500,000 Pfizer/BionTech vaccines from the United States, and 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from Germany and Italy as donations.
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