Despite the fact that coronavirus vaccines have been available to Serbian citizens since the beginning of the year, about a half of the population has not been vaccinated yet. Young people account for the smallest portion of the immunized, and in a bid to boost vaccination the authorities introduced fees, shopping vouchers and, as of recently, COVID passes.
Over the past two months, journalists of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) have sent 79 requests for access to information of public importance – to the Ministry of Health, Institute of Public Health of Serbia Dr Milan Jovanović Batut, and to hospitals and public health institutes in Serbia. We asked whether the hospitalized and deceased COVID-19 patients had been vaccinated and if they had, what vaccine they had received. The hospitals in question are on the Batut Institute’s list because they have ventilators for treating the most endangered patients.
Twenty-one institutions delivered the requested Information, while the others either did not reply or told us to contact other institutions.
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We did not receive data from, among others, the country’s major healthcare centers where COVID-19 patients are being treated as well, such as the Clinical Hospital Center Bežanijska Kosa, Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, Clinical Center Vojvodina, and Clinical Center Niš. The Ministry of Health told us on two occasions that it did not have this information, even though certain hospitals said that they forwarded the data to the Ministry. The Ministry then told us to address Batut, whose representatives said that they did not have the requested data.
The data we received nevertheless show that a considerably bigger number of hospitalized and deceased COVID-19 patients in Serbia had not been vaccinated.
Among those who, in spite of vaccination, were treated in hospitals or died from the coronavirus, the majority had received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. As CINS reported earlier, out of the available vaccines, by July 21 the most used vaccine was none other than the Chinese one, with 3.4 million administered doses.
The institutions that kept these records did so in different ways and in different periods. Some had detailed data, i.e. what vaccines the hospitalized and deceased had received, while others disclosed only percentages.
That is why we will present the data below as we received them from different health institutions. We will regularly update the article with new data.
Belgrade, Clinic for Infectious and Tropical Diseases
The Clinic for Infectious and Tropical Diseases of the Clinical Center of Serbia has been registering since September 9 whether its hospitalized COVID-19 patients were vaccinated or not. By request of the Ministry of Health, they made a cross-section of the situation on September 9. On that day, there were 89 hospitalized patients, most of whom had not been vaccinated. From September 9 to 15 about 50 more COVID patients were admitted, more than half of whom had been vaccinated, predominantly with the Sinopharm shot.
The General Hospital in Bor found itself in the COVID system in early September and has had data on the vaccination status of their patients since September 9. The data the hospital delivered to CINS are scant but show an increase in the number of hospitalized patients, mostly unvaccinated ones.
One person died in this hospital in the first half of September, but it is unknown whether they had been vaccinated.
COVID patients are also treated in the General Hospital Valjevo. From the start of the year to October 24 a total of over 2,000 people were hospitalized there. About 22% of them passed away. The hospitalized and those who died were mostly unvaccinated.
On the other hand, 267 coronavirus deaths were reported to the Institute for Public Health Valjevo between the beginning of the year and the beginning of October. Out of that number, 10% had been vaccinated, 67% unvaccinated, while the others’ vaccination status was unknown, the Valjevo Institute said.
Vranje and the Pčinja District
More than 1,800 people were treated for COVID-19 in the General Hospital Vranje from the start of the year to mid-September. Most of them had not been vaccinated, i.e. just around 100 people had received a coronavirus shot and mostly the Chinese one at that. In the same period, more than 200 patients died of COVID-19 in the hospital. Nearly all of the deceased were unvaccinated.
The data CINS received from the Institute for Public Health Vranje were somewhat different and in addition to that city encompassed all the municipalities of the Pčinja District. According to their records, 261 people died from the coronavirus in Vranje between the beginning of the year and October 24, of whom 90% had not been vaccinated. Meanwhile, 451 individuals died of COVID-19 in the territory of the district. Some 400 had not been vaccinated.
Out of the smaller number of vaccinated patients who passed away in the Pčinja District, one person had received the first dose of the AstraZeneca jab, one had received Sputnik V, while two men had received a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine after two doses of Sinopharm. The others had received the Chinese vaccine, mostly in the period January–March 2021.
“The first deceased vaccinated persons in February were actually persons who had gotten infected just before or after immunization with the second dose,” reads a reply from the Institute for Public Health Vranje.
Institute representatives also pointed out that most of the deceased vaccinated patients had been over the age of 70 and that they had had other, chronic illnesses as well.
Zlatibor District – Užice, Priboj, Prijepolje
According to the data of the Institute for Public Health Užice, from the beginning of the year till the end of July just under 2,300 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the Health Center Užice, which also includes the hospitals in Užice, Priboj and Prijepolje. Almost 2,000 of that number had not received a coronavirus vaccine. By the end of June, 509 people died from the coronavirus in the hospitals in the Zlatibor District. Nearly all of them were unvaccinated, while 15 individuals aged 84 on average had received the Sinopharm shot.
The General Hospital in Kladovo also kept records. From the start of the year to the middle of September, just under 100 COVID-19 patients, predominantly unvaccinated ones, were hospitalized in that health institution. During that time 34 people died of COVID-19, the majority of whom had not been vaccinated.
In the same period, 2,002 patients were treated for COVID-19 in the General Hospital Kruševac, while hospital representatives explain that most of the patients in serious condition were unvaccinated.
Mačva District – Šabac and Loznica
Although the General Hospital in Šabac did not answer CINS’ request, according to the data of the Institute for Public Health Šabac 51 patients died in the hospital between August 18 and the beginning of October. Most of them had not been vaccinated. The Institute provided data for the hospital in Loznica, too. In the same period 29 people died in that hospital, 20 of them unvaccinated.
The General Hospital Loznica itself delivered data in percentages to CINS, but for a longer period. Hospital representatives said that from the beginning of the year to September 1, 244 people had died in COVID-19 wards. According to them, there were just 10-20% of vaccinated patients among the hospitalized.
Representatives of the General Hospital Novi Pazar told CINS that among the patients hospitalized between the start of the year and mid-September, 85-90% had not been vaccinated.
There were a little over 1,400 people infected with the coronavirus hospitalized in the General Hospital Pančevo from the start of the year to the middle of September. However, the hospital has been keeping records on the vaccination of these patients only since March. Between March and August, 90% of hospitalized patients were unvaccinated, whereas September brought a jump in the hospitalization of vaccinated persons in the hospital – about 30%.
“In most patients, more than six months had passed since the second dose of immunization,” Pančevo hospital representatives explained.
According to their data, out of the total number of the deceased some 2.5% were people who had received the Sinopharm vaccine and were predominantly seniors who were already suffering from other diseases.
We recall that the elderly and patients with chronic illnesses are a priority along with healthcare workers where the administration of the third, so-called booster dose of the vaccine is concerned. As CINS has already reported, the booster dose is standard practice in vaccinology and increases immunity.
No deaths at clinics for children and pregnant women
CINS also received data in percentages from the General Hospital Požarevac. Out of the total number of patients in the hospital from the start of the year to September 15, the unvaccinated accounted for 75%, while the vaccinated accounted for 25%. Out of the total number of the deceased in that period, more than 95% had not been vaccinated.
As for the types of vaccines the patients had received, representatives of the Požarevac hospital only say that all the vaccines available in Serbia at the time were present.
The General Hospital Dr Radivoj Simonović in Sombor has been monitoring the vaccination status of its patients since the beginning of the year. By mid-September, the hospital received just over 800 COVID-19 patients. The virus caused 207 deaths in the hospital. Practically all of the hospitalized and deceased were unvaccinated.
Sremska Kamenica, Institute for Pulmonary Diseases of Vojvodina
The Institute for Pulmonary Diseases of Vojvodina has been systematically gathering data on the vaccination status of its coronavirus patients since March 10. In their reply to CINS, representatives of the hospital said that as of mid-September they had had information on close to 400 patients. Like in other healthcare institutions, they were mostly unvaccinated persons.
Generally, patients in the most serious condition were sent to this institution, the Institute representatives explained. Ninety-six people died, 80 of whom had not received a vaccine. Nonetheless, even though they were all treated for the consequences of the coronavirus infection, the virus was not the main cause of death in all cases, reads the reply from the Institute. Patients potentially had other diseases and conditions prior to being infected with the coronavirus, such as diabetes, obesity, and chronic pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases:
“In six (out of 80) unvaccinated patients, who were treated for COVID, the main cause of death was not the COVID infection.”
Data from the General Hospital Ćuprija show that those who ended up hospitalized and died from the coronavirus were predominantly unvaccinated. From early September to October 25 more than 400 patients were admitted to the institution because of the coronavirus. The majority of them – 269 – had not been vaccinated. Unvaccinated patients also make up the majority of the deceased in that health institution. Out of the 58 deceased, 40 had not received any vaccine.