EU chief promises to accelerate supply of vaccines to Ukraine
- It has so far received only 500,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for its population of 40 million.
KIEV: European Council chief Charles Michel promised Wednesday to accelerate coronavirus vaccine deliveries to Ukraine whose inoculation drive has been plagued by allegations of corruption and state incompetence.
The ex-Soviet country with an ageing healthcare system has struggled to overcome the pandemic and was slow in securing a shipment of vaccines when compared to other European countries.
It has so far received only 500,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for its population of 40 million.
"We are helping Ukraine to get access to coronavirus vaccines," Michel said during a press conference with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev.
The EU leader said he will "personally engage" to speed up the deliveries via the UN-backed Covax programme.
Ukraine is expecting eight million doses under the Covax initiative, but the delivery that was initially expected in mid-February has been delayed.
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called on EU member states in early February to donate some of their vaccine supplies to Ukraine but so far without result.
Michel affirmed EU "solidarity" with Ukraine and said Brussels is the country's "most reliable partner".
"There is no Europe without Ukraine. We share common values: democracy and rule of law," he said.
Michel on Tuesday visited the country's war-torn east where Kiev has been fighting Russia-backed separatists since Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
President Zelensky has come under fire for his handling of the pandemic and some critics have said systemic corruption was to blame for the poor government response.
In the first seven days of the vaccination drive around 7,000 people received the jab, according to the health ministry.
Zelensky on Tuesday released a picture of himself getting vaccinated, in an apparent attempt to overcome scepticism towards the jab that was produced in India.
According to official figures, 3,486 people were hospitalised with the coronavirus in the past 24 hours -- a record number for Ukraine since the start of the pandemic.
Ukraine has so far recorded over 1.3 million infections and more than 26,000 deaths from the virus.
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