BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia could introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said on Friday.
“We cannot be in a situation where we have a healthcare worker infected and then ask if he or she had been vaccinated,” Loncar told Reuters, adding that the government could discuss the proposal within a few days.
Italy was the first country in Europe to introduce mandatory vaccination for health workers earlier this week.
Around 2.7 million of Serbia’s 7 million population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the eighth highest proportion globally.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the Balkan country expects to have 40 percent of those aged over 18 vaccinated by the end of April.
Despite the relatively high vaccination rate, Serbia reported 3,625 new infections on Thursday and 41 deaths, and said hospitals are running near full capacity.
When the first vaccines arrived in December and January, people were lining up to get a jab, but interest, especially among students, has dropped.
To boost the inoculation programme, authorities have launched a campaign showing prominent figures including a priest talking about benefits of the vaccination, and President Aleksandar Vucic received a jab in the remote village of Rudna Glava.
“I am not against vaccines. But I am against the unresearched vaccines,” Dusan Ostojic, a dentist in Belgrade told Reuters. ” I’m not sure they’re sufficiently researched so that I can, as a medical doctor, maybe recommend them to someone.”
(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)