Rich countries are hoarding vaccines and blocking supply to the COVAX mechanism which could not deliver the agreed amounts of jabs to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Goran Cerkez, Assistant to the Health Minister of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity, told N1 on Wednesday.
“The expert position was to immediately start with vaccines that are approved in the European Union,” Cerkez said, explaining that the idea was for Bosnia to follow the EU on the matter.
But this idea had to be abandoned “when it became clear that it is not possible to get these vaccines,” he explained. That is when the FBiH turned toward other sources.
Cerkez commented on the fact that Bosnia’s government, called the Council of Ministers, was not in favour of introducing PCR test requirements at the border, saying “we are a country of open doors.”
He said the FBiH Health Ministry requested from the state-level authorities to pass such a decision several times, but that the Republika Srpska (RS) entity was not willing to impose such restrictions on the border with Serbia.
Cerkez commented on the images of long ques of Bosnians who went to Serbia to get vaccinated, saying he had mixed feelings about it.
“I was very happy that 20-25 thousand people got the opportunity to get the vaccine,” he said.
But on the other hand, he said it caused “indignation” when considering the fact that Bosnia did not provide vaccines.
“This state firmly believed in the COVAX mechanism behind which the World Health Organisation stands,” he said.
Cerkez said that the FBiH could have tried to procure vaccines in other ways at that time, but that it was expecting the state to do its part.
“The state is the only bearer of international subjectivity. Imagine Bavaria procuring vaccines, or Italy’s Lombardy,” he said.
“People in the WHO have invested great efforts to initiate this mechanism, but the withdrawal of 85 percent of vaccines into 10 countries, the closure of the United States after the election of Joe Biden, who introduced the Act of Defense to be able to ban exports vaccines or components for them at any time, has led to a difficult situation,” Cerkez explained.
“We believed in and tried to follow the path of the EU to procure vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency,” he said.
Cerkez praised the way Serbia approached the issue, noting that it may be among the first countries in the world to vaccinate two million people with one dose, and 800,000 with two doses.
“We need to be aware of the geopolitics that plays a role. We cannot squint at those things, positioning, Russia's support, China's support,” he said, adding that in Serbia, the procurement process was declared a state secret, which is possible in a centralized system.
Cerkez argued that some may have abused the vaccine procurement issue to send a message that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot function as a state and that this is why the emphasis in the procurement process was given to the entities.