SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria needs to speed up vaccinations against the coronavirus to limit the health risks for its people and for other countries, the EU internal market commissioner in charge of vaccine strategy roll-out, Thierry Breton, said on Friday.
Bulgaria is the 27-member bloc’s least vaccinated nation, where less than 30% of its adult population have taken at least one shot against the virus, and the country has the highest COVID-19 related death rates in the bloc.
“The first risk is of course for the Bulgarian population, but also (there is a risk) to generate a new variant, which would be more resistant than the other ones,” Breton told a news conference in Sofia.
“I don’t want that we speak of a potential Bulgarian variant over the winter. And if we do not do anything we may see a Bulgarian variant because there’s too many people not being vaccinated,” he said.
On Friday, Bulgaria reported 2,785 new infections, down from a peak in October, and 155 new deaths. The pandemic has killed 26,985 people in the country of 7 million people so far.
Some 22,000 vaccine doses were administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to over 3.1 million, health ministry data showed.
But many Bulgarians remain vaccine sceptical amid entrenched mistrust in state institutions, misinformation and contradictory messages from politicians and experts amid a prolonged political crisis.
In October, the interim government introduced a mandatory health pass for many indoor spaces in a bid to encourage vaccinations.
“Do not mix politics with science and with the health of the people,” Breton said, stressing that vaccines have been proven to be the most efficient tool to battle the pandemic.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Giles Elgood)