From: Bledar Qalliu
Rama Blames the EU for Albania’s Lack of Covid-19 Vaccine 

Prime Minister Edi Rama has blamed the European Union for Albania’s lack of a Covid-19 vaccine or a schedule for its reception.

“As you know, the EU has made a rather unfortunate decision. It has decided that surpluses will be given to the countries of the Western Balkans. There is no surplus here; there is less than was produced,” Rama told journalists of Thursday during a press conference.

He claimed that the leaders of powerful countries are keeping the real numbers away from the public because they are receiving “extremely less” vaccines than they had promised.

“You’ll hear [the numbers] when they start talking about how many they received as a start, and then you’ll understand that the situation is different from what it appears on the screen and media outlets.”

Rama said he is in constant communication with the three main Western vaccine companies – Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, – but added that the huge global demand, and the  US government having banned vaccine exports make it really difficult for his government.

The prime minister suggested that he will rely on his personal connections and diplomatic skills to procure vaccines for Albanians.

“What I want to stress is that, unfortunately, even in the case of the vaccine it is more than ever about diplomacy, personal connections, friendships, communication skills, contacts, i.e. there’s a really big battle taking place behind the scenes between all countries trying to get as large quantities as possible,” Rama said.

Rama’s attempt in personal vaccine diplomacy in Western countries has not proved very promising. After a risky New York visit amidst the pandemic, he was able to meet with the CEO of Pfizer in some undisclosed location, “open a communication channel” with the company, and get a photo together in front of some Andy Warhol paintings exhibited on the wall behind them.

After the visit, the prime minister told Albanians that the global demand for Pfizer’s vaccine is high, but he will not cease his struggle with other companies.

On Friday, during a visit at the main hospital treating Covid-19 patients in Tirana, Rama promised the medical staff that they will be the first to get the vaccine according to “a beautiful project”.

“We will place vaccination teams in ‘Air Albania’ stadium, because in open spaces it is better, also to avoid queues. We are now working on a very beautiful project that will be ready in the first week of January,” he revealed.

Meanwhile, Serbia has started vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine, and is expecting shipments from other Western companies, as well as the Chinese and Russian vaccines. Turkey is also expected to start using the Chinese vaccine, while waiting for shipments from the three Western vaccine companies. Both countries are also planning to produce vaccines domestically.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Edi Rama asked Albanians to be calm, and promised that they will not lag behind other peoples in getting the vaccine.