EU’s Least Vaccinated Country Wants to Donate Shots to Neighbors

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Bulgaria, the European Union country that has vaccinated the smallest share of its population, is planning to provide as many as 150,000 doses to its Balkan neighbors amid a lack of demand at home.

Skepticism toward the vaccines, poor organization and lack of trust in the institutions has slowed the inoculation process in the EU’s poorest member, where less than 20% of the population has received at least one shot. While supplies earlier this year were delayed, Bulgaria now has enough vaccines for the current vaccination rate and has even asked for some deliveries to be postponed, Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov told reporters in Sofia on Thursday.

The country has asked the European Commission for options to donate or sell a part of its supplies amid requests from North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have suffered difficulties in supplies, Katsarov said. Most of the doses planned for donation will be AstraZeneca shots, which Bulgarians don’t want to use after their use was halted by some EU countries temporarily due to fears of complications.

“Our will is to help,” Katsarov said. “Our needs are completely satisfied. At this moment, there’s no reason to expect that we can face deficits until the end of the year.”

Bulgaria has ordered as many as 14 million doses this year from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and J&J. Three out of five Bulgarians, however, are unlikely to roll up their sleeves for vaccines, the highest share in the EU, according to a Eurofound survey conducted in February and March.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen rumors, anti-vaxer mantras,” Katsarov said. “We can only provide conditions and access” to vaccines.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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