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Remarks by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi on the first deliveries of EU funded vaccines for the Western Balkans

Remarks given recently (20 April 2021) by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi on the first deliveries of EU funded vaccines for the Western Balkans.

"Check against delivery"

Thank you very much, thank you very much for showing interest. I think today we have some very positive news I can announce and share with you. This news comes, I think, at a crucial moment in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and we want to continue to help our Western Balkans partners, not only when it comes to medical equipment, when it comes to the modernisation of intensive care units or buying ambulances cars, but with vaccines.

This has been a major challenge – how to help our partners. First, we started delivering through the COVAX vaccines initiative to which the European Union and the Commission itself is the biggest donor still. Now we also accelerate and give a boost to the vaccination campaigns throughout the Western Balkans. This is because we care: we care about our partners, we care about the region and we care about their resilience and we care about the frontline medical workers.

The announcement I am happy to make is that we will be able to deliver very shortly – within a week or two – the first doses of all together 651,000 vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer, a company which is the most reliable partner for us. I want to thank them for their cooperation. In total we will deliver 651,000 vaccines for the frontline medical workers in the healthcare sector throughout the Western Balkans.

This means that at the beginning of May and the next months, we should be able to provide the vaccination for all the frontline medical workers in the Western Balkans. We will be delivering this together with our Austrian partners who have been facilitating this vaccines sharing to take place. We are very grateful to the Austrian government who has devoted tremendous efforts to help us to make this happen.

The deliveries of the vaccines are based on primary needs that we have gathered from our partners in the region and will be financed from our budget, from the €70 million that we have devoted to this task already in December. Now I am happy to tell you that this is going to be the funding for delivering the vaccines.

We have acted decisively already to help the Western Balkans partners. If you recall since the beginning of the pandemic, we have deployed over €3.3 billion in the region. For us it has always been a primary goal to help to keep the healthcare systems of the Western Balkans up and running and to be able to cope with the enormous challenge the COVID-19 has created in the region. This is why we have been first to deliver vital equipment at the first wave, this is why we were first to deliver help when it came to consolidating their healthcare infrastructure, be it, as I told you, intensive care units or ambulance cars or other tangible equipment. This is now the third stage when we deliver the vaccination on top of the COVAX initiative. 

Of course, our work does not stop here. We are taking an inspiration from this and as I told you, this vaccine delivery should cover the healthcare workers but it should also cover the most vulnerable groups. We are working with our Western Balkans partners also to deliver the rest of the 651,000 doses to the most vulnerable groups.

I think this is a very important contribution from the European Union and this must be taken as an extremely important sign that the European Union and its Member States do care about this region.

Thank you!



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