Press conference of Prime Minister Edi Rama at Rinas airport where first shipment of 192,000 doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine arrived:
I am very happy to be here together today to mark a crucial moment in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, but prior providing some explanations about the latest shipment of doses that just arrived in our country, I would like to share very good news with you.
In the meantime, we have launched negotiations on establishing the vaccine production factory to Albania.
It will be a high-tech plant by one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world today, the pharmaceutical company commissioned to distribute the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, but also renowned for manufacturing many other vaccines and other pharmaceutical products. We have started talks with this company to bring an investment in Albania, a very important project not only for this moment, but also for the future.
A vaccine production plant that would open up another important chapter in development of our country’s health sector and that would become an important reference point for higher quality medical products.
We are bringing a total of 192,000 doses to Albania today and 1.2 million vaccine doses will be delivered within 60 days, but under a faster schedule than 60 days indeed. This quantity of vaccine supplies will allow us to expand the coronavirus vaccination programme throughout the territory according to a well-prepared plan and embark on a very intensive vaccination process.
Our goal is that by end of June, and of course I am considering the end of June as the least optimistic deadline, because our ambition is that half a million of people get vaccinated within May. We have set the month of June as the deadline.
As of today, we have already received a total of 282 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, as in addition to the vaccines that just arrived, we have been also provided with the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik V vaccines, which total around 90,000 doses, namely 38,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses, 48.000 Pfizer vaccines, and 10,000 Sputnik V vaccines.
In the meantime, we expect 70,000 more Pfizer vaccines, 80,000 more AstraZeneca shots and 25,000 doses to add to the existing supplies that if we are to add a total of 106,000 more doses already in the process to be provided by the European Union would sum up to an amount of 871,000 vaccines together with the half a million of Sinovac coronavirus vaccines I already announced earlier today.
We have already contracted for 500,000 Sinovac vaccines and have secured a total of one million doses. We preferred to reach an initial contract on provision of 500,000 so that we can look into all future dynamics, because this is really a dynamic process and we have progressed strategically so that we can maintain a complete balance between the plan and the needs vis-à-vis the categories and the overall number, as well as the market’s performance.
We have procured and signed a contract for 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Another 1 million and 140,000 vaccine doses have been procured and prepaid through the COVAX mechanism, and the total of supplies we have secured so far amounts to 2.140 million vaccine doses. Being ready to immediately sign the contract for the other half a million of Sinovac vaccines, the total of secured vaccines is estimated at 2.640 million doses to date.
This is the general overview. I believe that we are in a position to accomplish our nearest objective, which will significantly ease the tourist season.
We have set the month of June as the final deadline, but in the meantime we have taken all measures to administer the vaccines to half a million people within May and the immunisation programme will go on intensely so that a critical mass of people get vaccinated that would provide us more relief.
Second, our final goal is that whole vaccinable population gets vaccinated by next spring, because babies and little kids won’t be vaccinated for this pandemic, and this way we will conclude this war at the same time with the majority of the EU member states.
I would like to add that today we can afford sending a direct message to Kosovo, our brothers and sisters in Kosovo. We are ready to take over the vaccination of all Kosovo health workers starting tomorrow. Kosovo’s health system includes a total of 11,000 health professionals and medical personnel and we are ready to complete their vaccination within next 20 days, taking into account also the time they would need to travel to Kukes, as it was the case with the immunisation of the first 500 doctors and nurses from Kosovo. If they want to speed up the process and are capable of arranging everything so that they can travel in droves to Kukes, we can set a three-shift process so that they all receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
We have discussed the issue with the Health Minister and the latter has taken all measures along with the health authorities to make sure that the mass immunisation program begins immediately as soon as the vaccines go through the required registration and distribution procedures throughout the territory of the Republic of Albania and schedule a specific vaccination timetable, with the process lasting through the midnight first and through a three-shift system if necessary.
The Ministry of Health, the respective authorities tasked with this process will issue specific permission to all the elderly, who will be included on the vaccination registers. As we have already said, starting with the seniors over 80 and gradually moving forward to include all Albanians aged 60; our ambition is that all these people receive the vaccine within the period I just mentioned a little earlier. This is part of our ambition.
Of course, the objectives are set without taking into account any unpredictable development. Given that I have drawn lessons from experience that we Albanians don’t want to consider the unpredictable situations and blame and hold people accountable when something unpredictable happens, we will set the end of June as the final deadline. However, I am confident that in all possible scenarios we will be able to complete this part of the process within May. Now, thanking you all first for withstanding the strong wind blowing now, I am available to answer any question you may want to ask.
–Will the vaccine doses you secured under the agreement with Turkey be used to vaccinate people at higher risk from coronavirus, as you already said, the older adults and the people suffering from chronic illnesses?
PM Edi Rama: Absolutely everyone!
It is no longer a matter of priority categories. As for the categories at higher risk, I can say that we can conclude vaccination of this category starting today, but the latest information I have received show that a total of 56,000 people have received the vaccine, including doctors and nurses, a modest number of older adults, around 8000 of them, if I am not mistaken, and it is actually a modest figure considering their total number and this is because of the small quantity of vaccines we had available until today. We no longer face this priority categories issue as we now have secured ample supplies that would allow us to expand and speed up the immunisation process.
–Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned a production factory …
PM Edi Rama: It is about production of all sorts of vaccines and not the COVID-19 vaccines only.
–In the meantime, you also said that the Albanian government will secure 2.6 million vaccine doses. If so, why would we need a vaccine production factory?
Given that the election campaign is set to officially begin today and the Technical Committee of Experts decided yesterday that the current restriction measures remain into force, including the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, will the Socialist Party convene only ten people at the Skanderbeg square today?
PM Edi Rama: The factory in question is not a factory that has been built recently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is about a factory with a long tradition founded, if I am not mistaken, in 1700s.
Second, we are talking about production of specific pharmaceutical items, including the flu vaccine, the hepatitis vaccine, and a range of other vaccines and medical products.
You shouldn’t think this whole story will end soon so easily, because in all likelihood the antic-COVID vaccine will be administered regularly, just like a common flu vaccine. It would be just like receiving a common seasonal flu vaccine.
On the other hand, I hope you won’t start complaining about the factory, because its construction won’t cost you a single penny. Second, this factory’s products can be easily exported as they are rare products that can be exported, as well as meet the domestic market needs. Of course, Albania is the one that wins from this whole process, health system, you and we all are the ones to win. Therefore, there is no reason for you to worry about.
To put it clearly, we have already secured 2,640 million vaccine doses, which are actually insufficient to complete the process by next spring. We would actually have to secure some 1.8 million more vaccines to complete the two-dose immunisation of all the people who theoretically need to be vaccinated. Of course, a part of them don’t wish to receive the vaccine, and that’s OK since vaccinating is not mandatory.
As I already said, this is a process. We don’t know what the future has in store, but, in all likelihood, there will come a time when the COVID vaccine will be a common shot just like any other seasonal flu vaccine mostly received by the most vulnerable people or people with chronic diseases.
Gathering of people is banned by law, but if ten people are here, and 10 other people around 20 meters away, then this doesn’t violate the law. This is just a creative gift to make possible that more than ten people come together at the main square, but no gatherings of more than ten people should be allowed.
–Mr. Prime Minister, what make you review your previous position against the delivery of both Chinese and Russian vaccines to Albania?
PM Edi Rama: This was because of the dynamics of the process. It is a simple as that. It is the same thing that forces the German Chancellor to state that Germany will procure Russian vaccine even though if the EU doesn’t approve it. It was totally unimaginable to hear Angela Merkel issuing such a statement just six months ago. Life is dynamical.
– Mister Prime Minister, is it just a coincidence that arrival of such huge amount of vaccine doses coincides with the official start of the electoral campaign?
PM Edi Rama: If it was possible for us to receive these vaccines 10 days, 20 days ago, of course I wouldn’t have expected this coincidence to take place. What does this mean, and why it happens this way, these are speculations about the coincidences that you make when you have nothing else to say.
Thank you very much!