When the European Union launched its mass vaccination campaign, non-member Bosnia struggled along with most other Balkan nations to get supplies. By late spring, however, hundreds of thousands of doses started pouring into the country.
But after an initial rush of people clamoring to get jabbed, demand for shots quickly slowed. It is now down to a trickle even though Bosnia has Europe’s highest coronavirus mortality rate at 4.5%, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Dr. Edin Drljevic, an infectious disease specialist at one of Bosnia’s largest hospitals, in Sarajevo, thinks the disconnect is partly a result of authorities failing to properly promote vaccination against COVID-19.
“At first, we only had negative publicity because of the failure to secure vaccines, but once the vaccines finally started arriving, mainly through donations, people became picky,” he said.
So far, just under 13% of Bosnia’s 3.3 million people have been fully vaccinated, among the lowest shares in Europe. Even people willing to get inoculated are putting off shots so they can choose the vaccine they want instead of receiving whichever one is available.
Bosnia currently administers the Pfizer-BioNTech, Sputnik V, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines. AstraZeneca’s product, while the most widely available, appears to enjoy the least trust because of extensive news coverage when numerous European countries temporary suspended its use due to concerns about possible, rare side effects.
“The bottom line is, people are poorly informed and lack up-to-date knowledge,” Drljevic said.
With so few takers, over 50,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses have already expired; an additional 350,000 doses are set to expire in October