Serbia gets first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

BELGRADE, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Nearly 5,000 doses of the Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech (22UAy.DE) coronavirus vaccines were flown on Tuesday to Serbia, the first country in the Balkans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

State TV footage showed an airplane unloading containers with 4,875 doses of vaccines. The vaccines were later taken to the Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera, known as the "Torlak", in Belgrade.

"The immunisation, most probably, will start next week," Mirsad Djerlek, state secretary in the health ministry, told reporters in front of the "Torlak" Institute building.

The state body in charge of inoculation was holding a session to discuss distribution, he said.

"Following the session we will know who will be the first to get the vaccine," Djerlek said.

Government officials have said that the first batch of vaccines will be distributed to care homes for the elderly.

"We expect to get another 21,000 doses of the Pfizer (and BioNTech) vaccine in January," he said.

Last week the Serbian state regulator approved the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine.

Djerlek said that authorities were also in negotiations to import Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and a Chinese vaccine, but he did not give more details.

The government did not disclose the agreed price for the Pfizer vaccine.

Serbia on Monday reported 3,685 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours and 47 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic around 300,000 people in the country, including more than 3,000 nurses and doctors, have become infected, and 2,733 have died. Hospitals are running at full capacity.

Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Susan Fenton

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