SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia received a shipment Friday of 200,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine following major delays in the country’s start-and-stop coronavirus immunization program.
The small Balkan country has struggled with supply shortages, and less than 3% of the population has received a first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines.
The current daily COVID-19 mortality rate in North Macedonia is approximately three times higher than the European Union average.
The Sinopharm vaccines arrived Friday from neighboring Serbia in refrigerated trucks.
Health Minister Venko Filipce said an expanded nationwide immunization program would start Tuesday with a goal of delivering about 15,000 shots daily.
Another 600,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and 26,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected in May, he said.
Despite North Macedonia having still-high infection rates, the government has relaxed restrictions for Orthodox Easter this Sunday and next month’s holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which is observed by the country's predominantly Muslim ethnic Albanian minority.
As of Thursday, North Macedonia had recorded a total of 152,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,800 deaths since the start of the pandemic.