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Bulgaria Begins Mass-Vaccination Effort; All Welcome To Line Up In 'Green Corridors'

People wait in front of the hospital of the Military Medical Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Feb. 21 for a COVID-19 vaccination.
People wait in front of the hospital of the Military Medical Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Feb. 21 for a COVID-19 vaccination.

SOFIA, Bulgaria - In an effort to boost vaccination rates among a skeptical public, Bulgaria has opened up COVID-19 inoculations to all who want them.

On Friday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told the nation he was creating "green corridors" where any Bulgarian resident could line up for the vaccine.

Bulgaria first began administering the shots on Dec. 27. But before the mass vaccination campaign began Saturday, Bulgaria had one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with fewer than 1% of Bulgarians having taken the first dose and fewer than half of those fully vaccinated as of Feb. 14, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In a poll of 1,000 Bulgarians conducted by Alpha Research and cited by The Sofia Globe, some 52 percent said they did not intend to be immediately vaccinated.

Since the mass vaccination campaign began, more than 30,000 people have received a first shot, according to local media reports.

Thousands stood in line for hours over the weekend at vaccination points set up at hospitals in Sofia, with temperatures hovering around freezing. Many are receiving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine,which has been approved for use in some EU countries but not in the U.S. The Moderna and Pfizer -BioNTech vaccines are also part of the campaign. Some have received appointments to return for their second shot — up to 10 weeks from the first vaccination date — and others have been told they'll be contacted for follow-up.

As of Feb. 18, 229,679 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Bulgaria with 9,624 deaths. As of Feb. 14, about 200,000 vaccine doses had been delivered to Bulgaria – with more expected to arrive in coming days.

The number of COVID-19 cases is up week-over-week in Bulgaria though the country is under partial closure – with restaurants and bars shuttered until at least March 1. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required to enter the country until at least April 30.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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