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Serbia Starts Inoculations With Russia's Sputnik-V Vaccine

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin (left) and Parliamentary Speaker Ivica Dacic were among the first to get coronavirus vaccine shots in Belgrade on January 6.

BELGRADE -- Serbia has begun inoculations with Russia’s controversial Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine, with top officials getting the first jabs to boost public trust in the shot.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Parliamentary Speaker Ivica Dacic, and Health Ministry State Secretary Mirsad Djerlek were among the first to receive the Russian shot on January 6.

Russians are already being inoculated with the Sputnik-V vaccine after it was approved by Moscow in August despite a lack of large-scale clinical trials and perceived shortcomings in data to support its safety and efficacy.

Serbia and Belarus are the only European countries using the Russian vaccine, which does not have the approval of the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization.

Vulin, who is known for his pro-Moscow positions, said he believes the Russian vaccine "is good and that everyone should receive it."

"I wanted to get a Russian vaccine because I believe in Russian medicine," Vulin said.

Djerlek said that all vaccines approved by Serbia's medicines regulator are safe.

"Vaccines are of equal quality and have the same goal, and that is to strengthen immunity," Djerlek said.

The first batch of 2,400 doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine arrived in Serbia on December 30.

The Russian sovereign fund RDIF said on January 6 that it had agreed to supply up to a total of 2 million doses of the vaccine to Serbia -- enough to vaccinate 1 million people with the two-shot protocol.

"Supplying Sputnik-V will enable Serbia to diversify its portfolio of coronavirus vaccines," according to the RDIF website.

Serbia launched its coronavirus vaccination program using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine when Prime Minister Ana Brnabic received the shot, which alongside the Moderna vaccine has been approved for use in the EU and North America.

But with supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech limited for now, Serbia is seeking to obtain the vaccines from AstraZeneca, Moderna, and China's Sinopharm.

Serbia has registered almost 350,000 cases of COVID-19, including more than 3,400 deaths.