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Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Serbia praises Russian COVID vaccine as first shots administered

2 minute read

A medical worker demonstrates a vial with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine during the vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a clinic in Minsk, Belarus December 29, 2020. Andrei Pokumeiko/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW/BELGRADE, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Top Serbian politicians urged greater international acceptance of Russia's coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday as they joined the front of their country's queue for shots, days after Moscow delivered the first consignment.

The first batch of 2,400 doses of Sputnik V vaccine arrived on Dec. 30, and Russian sovereign fund RDIF said it had agreed to supply more up to a total of 2 million.

Serbia started inoculations with the two-stage drug on Wednesday, including a shot for parliament speaker Ivica Dacic, who urged the World Health Organization to register it.

"You heard certain statements that (international) travel will be allowed for those who get the Pfizer shot only," he said.

"I would not be surprised if they (the statements) turn to be true as a kind of political pressure."

So far only the vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech (22UAy.DE) - with which Serbia kicked off a mass inoculation drive last month - has been granted emergency WHO approval.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, known for his pro-Moscow stance, was also among the first to get the Sputnik shot. "I wanted to get the Russian vaccine, because I believe in Russian medicine," he told reporters.

Russia has so far signed agreements to supply Sputnik V to Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nepal and India and has production partners for the drug in several countries.

Serbia, which officials say also plans to obtain the vaccines from AstraZeneca (AZN.L), Moderna (MRNA.O) and China's Sinopharm (8156.HK), has registered almost 350,000 cases of COVID-19 with 3,405 deaths.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova in Moscow and Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; editing by John Stonestreet

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