A nurse administers a dose of vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a health station of the Health Center “Dr Veroljub Cakic” Majdanpek, in Rudna Glava, Serbia, April 6, 2021. [[Photo/Agencies]

BELGRADE, Serbia-Thousands of vaccine-seekers from countries neighboring Serbia have flocked to Belgrade after Serbian authorities on Saturday offered foreigners free coronavirus jabs if they showed up over the weekend.

During the weekend, long lines of Bosnians, Montenegrins and Macedonians-often entire families-formed in front of the main vaccination center in the Serbian capital.

“We don’t have vaccines. I came here to get vaccinated,” said Zivko Trajkovski, who is from North Macedonia. “We are very grateful because we can vaccinate quicker than in (North)Macedonia.”

Zoran Dedic of Bosnia noted his country and Serbia were part of a joint federation before Yugoslavia disintegrated in a civil war during the 1990s. “It does not make any difference, Bosnia or Serbia. It does not matter,” he said.

Most of Serbia’s Balkan neighbors have been struggling with shortages and have barely started mass vaccination drives. Serbia has ample supplies and one of Europe’s highest per capita vaccination rates.

Serbia has one of the highest inoculation rates in Europe, mainly thanks to the government’s large purchases of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. The country is also using vaccines developed by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca partnerships.

Around 20 percent of the adult population has already been vaccinated with two doses, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Monday. She added that by the end of this month, at least 40 percent of the adults will finish their first doses.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday received an injection of the Sinopharm vaccine in front of the media in the village of Rudna Glava in the municipality of Majdanpek. Vucic said he would receive the second dose in three weeks, somewhere in south Serbia.

Vucic noted that Serbia received the fourth batch of vaccines from China on Monday, with more to come based on a contract signed several weeks ago.

The president said Serbia also plans to produce the Chinese vaccine in the future, as well as develop scientific cooperation in that field.

“It is important for us to produce the vaccine ourselves, to produce the liquid and pack it into bottles, fill syringes and distribute to people,” he said.”Then we continue with the accelerated development of biomedicine and biotechnology that will propel our science and our economy, and in this, we have to cooperate with the Chinese side.”

The Serbian government has also donated vaccine doses to North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

Agencies – Xinhua