Ukraine hopes to get some COVID-19 vaccines from other states

FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" are placed on dry ice in this illustration

By Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine, which hopes to vaccinate half of its population against coronavirus by early 2022, is in talks with other countries including Poland about receiving some of their coronavirus vaccines, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday.

One of Europe's poorest countries, Ukraine has lagged behind other countries on the continent in starting its vaccination programme against COVID-19, which has infected more than 1.24 million Ukrainians and killed 23,644 people as of Feb. 8.

It has publicly called on the European Union and EU member states for help to secure vaccines, while resisting buying Russia's Sputnik V vaccine due to the toxic relations between the two countries since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

"We now have direct negotiations with countries that will give us their surplus (of vaccines). We already have contacts with Poland," Zelenskiy told a televised briefing.

Zelenskiy said last week that Kyiv had secured a total of 20 million doses of vaccine from India's Serum Institute and the global COVAX scheme.

Ukraine also expects to receive 5 million doses of vaccine from China's Sinovac. The government has previously expressed concern about its efficacy but Zelenskiy said he believed it was of high quality, pointing to Turkey using it.

Ukraine plans to start vaccinations in mid-February though the government has said that half the population was not willing to be vaccinated.

Zelenskiy, who contracted COVID-19 last year, said he personally would be vaccinated, but not in the first wave of vaccinations.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, writing by Pavel Polityuk; editing by Matthias Williams, William Maclean)