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Fact check: No protests or announcement in Serbia about mandatory vaccinations for school children

Social media users have been sharing a post which claims that on August 3 Serbia announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for children returning to school and that millions of Serbians took to the street that night in protest. This claim is false. The Serbian government has not announced any plans for vaccinating children, and the protests pictured took place in July. They were not driven by vaccination concerns but by the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The post has been shared hundreds of times on social media (here&set=a.100250811670167&type=3&theater , here&set=a.3328858867135682&type=3&theater , here&set=a.1551775468653&type=3&theater).

The post reads: “Yesterday morning, August 3, 2020, it was announced in Serbia that a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination would be required for all children and teenagers to go back to school classrooms. The announcement INCLUDED COLLEGES. The two images that you see are from last night August 3, 2020. MILLIONS OF SERBIANS Took to the streets of Belgrade in protest! They will NOT be forced into a bullshit vaccination!”

On August 3, the date mentioned in the social media post, the epidemiologist Dr Predrag Kon, a Member of the Crisis Staff for the Suppression of Infectious Diseases COVID-19 set up by the Serbian government, said that the situation regarding schools was still being monitored and that he did not yet know how measures in schools would be implemented: “I must emphasize that some things were well assessed by the educators themselves. It is important that they themselves assess whether it is possible to hold such classes and the capacity of the school itself. I am not ready to answer detailed questions about how this will be implemented, because I do not know," he said (here , here). There was no discussion of COVID-19 vaccinations, however in the same speech Dr Kon reminded citizens that the flu vaccination is mandatory for children with some chronic diseases.

On August 11 the Crisis Staff announced the details of a return to school, with masks recommended, distancing where possible, disinfection of rooms, and restricted school hours and class sizes. However, there was no mention of vaccinations (here).

As of early August, no vaccination for COVID-19 had been approved for use anywhere in the world. President Vladimir Putin said on August 11 that Russia had become the first country to give regulatory approval to such a vaccine ( here ). More than two dozen vaccine candidates are currently in clinical evaluation (here).

There were no protests reported on August 3 in Belgrade, but protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic (not against mandatory vaccinations) did take place in early July 2020 ( (here , here). Thousands of people took part in these protests, not millions as the social media post claims.

The photos in the Facebook post match those taken in the July protests, with the same location and with protesters wearing masks (here , tinyurl.com/y2ppvp7t , here).

There were anti-vaccination protests in Belgrade but these took place in May in the daytime (here).

VERDICT

False. Serbia has not introduced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren, and no protests took place over this issue on August 3. The only recent protests in Belgrade were in response to the government’s handling of the pandemic, and took place in early July.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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