EU chief urges states to donate vaccines to Ukraine

KIEV (AFP) – European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday she had called on European Union (EU) member states to donate some of their coronavirus jabs to Ukraine, which is trying to launch a vaccination campaign.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has faced criticism at home for failing to source Western-made jabs and has called on the EU to help Ukraine source vaccines.

Zelensky said yesterday that Ukraine, one of the poorest countries in Europe, would begin the first phase of the vaccination campaign later this month.

The country of some 40 million is awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the United Nations (UN) Covax programme and up to five million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac jab.

“On top of Covax, I have also asked our member states to donate part of their doses to Ukraine,” von der Leyen said in a video address at a conference held in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for a European Union Summit at the Europa building in Brussels. PHOTO: AFP

“Thanks to Covax, Ukraine’s doctors and nurses will receive the first vaccines already this month,” she said, adding that “millions of other doses will reach Ukraine by the summer”.

Ukraine has not registered any vaccine so far and Zelensky has rejected calls from pro-Moscow politicians to approve Russia’s Sputnik V jab.

Last week, the post-Soviet country said it had also secured 12 million doses of vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax.

The total amount of the already secured doses is not enough to meet the needs of the country, however.

Speaking at the same conference yesterday, Zelensky also pointed to Ukrainians’ “mistrust” of vaccines, saying a “large part of the population” did not want to get vaccinated.

According to a recent poll conducted by the non-government Rating Group, more than half of Ukrainians said they were not ready to get inoculated, even for free.

Ukraine’s 43-year-old leader, who experienced mild symptoms of the coronavirus last year, said he was ready to get inoculated to encourage others to do the same.

“As a majority of world leaders, I am ready to show people by personal example that vaccination is important, it is safe, it is needed,” said Zelensky.

With its run-down health system, Ukraine has recorded over 1.2 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths.