SKOPJE -- North Macedonia has launched its COVID-19 immunization campaign with doctors and other medical staff treating coronavirus patients being administered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Dobrinka Naunova-Jovanovska, a doctor in the main COVID-19 center in the capital, Skopje, said she felt “great” after becoming the first person to receive an injection.
"It is the only way to protect ourselves from this type of infection that has plagued us for the last year [and] with which the whole world is struggling,” she said.
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North Macedonia, a country of 2.1 million, received a first batch of more than 4,500 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine over the weekend in a donation from neighboring Serbia, which is looking to highlight its regional influence through assistance in the fight against COVID-19.
The Serbian government also sent 2,000 doses of the Russian-produced Sputnik V vaccine to Montenegro on February 17. The donation was handed over by the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic at Podgorica's airport.
North Macedonia's Health Ministry plans to first vaccinate medical staff working with COVID-19 patients, family doctors, laboratory staff, and then citizens over the age of 70 years.
Health Minister Venko Filipce said all medical staff are expected to receive their first shots within 10 days.
Pfizer is expected to send a shipment of about 4,000 doses of the vaccines next week, Filipce said.
North Macedonia has recorded more than 97,000 coronavirus infections and over 3,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 since the beginning of the epidemic a year ago.
Elsewhere in the region, hundreds of Bosnian Serb medical workers crossed the border into Serbia to receive a vaccine shot.
The Bosnian Serbs were vaccinated in three Serbian towns near the Bosnia-Herzegovina border.
Officials said that about 2,000 health staff from Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity have applied for the inoculations.
Bosnian Serbs have close ties with Serbia, while other parts of Bosnia are dominated by Bosniaks -- who are mostly Muslims -- and Croats, who have tense relations with Bosnian Serbs and their allies in Belgrade.
The regions were set up in a peace deal that ended the bloody 1992-95 war that led to the formal breakup of Serbian-led Yugoslavia.