The European Union will employ a special mechanism to provide West Balkan countries and certain others with vaccines against the novel coronavirus "as soon as possible," Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, said in an announcement of the conclusions of a video conference of EU leaders.
Late on Jan. 21, Von der Leyen explained that the delivery of vaccines to poor countries and states outside the EU through the COVAX international mechanism was proving complex, which was why it had been decided to use a special EU mechanism to ensure that vaccines provided by EU members are delivered to the West Balkans.
EU leaders have also decided to strongly discourage non-essential travel within the EU due to the speedy spread of a dangerous new variant of the virus, while preserving the EU market and the Schengen zone. Hot spots worldwide must be determined exactly and persons coming to the EU from such zones must be required to produce a COVID test.
Von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel stressed growing concern in the EU over the spread of the new coronavirus strain and pledged all steps would be taken to accelerate mass vaccination of the EU population.