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North Macedonia Leans On China For COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign

A North Macedonian health worker marks boxes of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine before storing it in a cold room at the Jane Sandanski Clinic in Skopje on April 30.

North Macedonia will expand its COVID-19 immunization program next week after the small Balkan nation received a first shipment of 200,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine on April 30.

Health Minister Venko Filipce said the new vaccine push would start on May 4 and aim to deliver about 15,000 shots daily.

North Macedonia has struggled to get its vaccination program off the ground since it began in February, with only 60,000 people in the country of 2 million having received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines.

The 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines arrived by trucks from neighboring Serbia and would be followed by another 100,000 doses donated by China, Filipce said.

About 500,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac shot and 26,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses are also expected to arrive in May.

Filipce said that by the beginning of the summer a high percentage of the population should be vaccinated, which would help change the trajectory of the pandemic in the country.

China has used millions of doses of both its main vaccines domestically and has exported them to many countries, particularly in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on April 30 that it expects to release its assessments for emergency-use listing of the two main Chinese vaccines for COVID-19 by next week.

If approved, China's two vaccines would be the first developed in a non-Western country to receive the WHO's backing. So far, the WHO has given emergency approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

With reporting by AP and Reuters