Bulgaria considers incentives to boost COVID-19 vaccinations

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Lala Staribratova, 95, a World War II veteran receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Military Medical Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov//File Photo

SOFIA, July 4 (Reuters) - Bulgaria is considering offering incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev said on Sunday.

Bulgaria is one of the few countries where people can choose between four different anti-coronavirus shots approved in the European Union. Still, only 14.5% of Bulgarian adults are fully vaccinated, putting the country far behind its EU peers.

On top of a general mistrust of authorities in the former communist country, Bulgarians often cite a fear of new medical products as their reason for refusing the vaccination. Another reason is that about 400,000 people have already been infected and developed resistance.

"We do not plan to force anyone. But we are considering the possibility to offer people who are getting the second shot some vouchers," Yanev said.

Sofia has opened special vaccination units in parks to make it easier for busy people to get a shot and is planning campaigns in Roma neighbourhoods to try to convince those communities of the benefits of the vaccines.

Failure to boost vaccine uptake may force the country to destroy shots that are nearing their expiration dates.

Yanev said Bulgaria may face such a risk at the end of August and was working with Brussels to see how it may also donate some 150,000 shots to western Balkan countries.

The interim government will stay in office until a new one is formed after a July 11 snap election.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Alex Richardson

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