About 250 Kosovo health-care workers traveled from Kosovo to the Albanian city of Kukes on March 20 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a health official in Kosovo said.
Health-care workers were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which Albania secured on March 12. The shots were administered in Albania because Kosovo has not yet formally begun its own vaccination program.
“It’s a very good feeling. We are a first group to be vaccinated, and we are honored to come to Albania for a vaccine,” Hamide Miftaraj, a doctor at the family medical center in Drenas, said in a statement to RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
“We hope that vaccines will very soon arrive in Kosovo, too, so that all our colleagues and the population in general get vaccinated,” she added.
The Federation of Health Trade Unions of Kosovo (FSSHK) announced on March 19 that 250 Kosovar health workers would be sent for vaccinations in Kukes. The head of the FSSHK, Blerim Syla, said in a press release that another 250 health workers are authorized to be vaccinated in the coming days.
Kosovo’s Ministry of Health said that a list of Kosovar health workers was sent to Albanian authorities, who had previously expressed their readiness to vaccinate them in Kukes.
The announcement came after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine "safe and effective" following its suspension by many countries because of reports that a small number of people developed blood clots after receiving it. Most of the countries that suspended the vaccine started administering it again after the EMA decision.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said during a visit to the vaccination center in Kukes that Albania is ready to do even more for Kosovo but that, for the moment, "it is important to start vaccinating health workers."
Rama said companies do not allow the vaccine to be reexported.
“We have started with 500 [health-care workers]. We will definitely continue. We will not leave them there alone because, in the end, we are one," Rama said.
Kosovo is expected to receive its first vaccines from the World Health Organization's COVAX program for poorer countries. The delivery is expected to be 100,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Ministry of Health in Kosovo in early January announced that it had secured 535,000 dosages of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. But Pfizer officials have told RFE/RL that they are still in discussions with the government of Kosovo over the purchase of the supply.
Kosovo is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. It registered 828 new cases on March 19, the highest number of daily infections so far this year.
Valbon Krasniqi, director of the University Clinical Hospital Service, warned on March 19 that all hospital capacities may be exceeded in March due to the increased number of cases.
Since March 2020, health authorities in Kosovo have registered 80,621 cases of infection and 1,744 deaths from COVID-19.