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A Bosnian citizen gets vaccinated in Belgrade. Photo: Oliver Bunic/AFP via Getty

Residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina are desperate for vaccines, but a promise of help from Serbia has left them with a dilemma: receive a vaccine from a former enemy, or wait months to get one at home.

Driving the news: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's announced earlier this month that residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be able to receive free vaccinations in Serbia. Bosnia is otherwise relying on donations and the WHO-backed COVAX initiative. So far just 7.6% of the population has had even one dose.

  • It is estimated that more residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina have now been vaccinated in Serbia than in their own country, says Bosnian journalist Mladen Obrenovic, who has been covering the pandemic.
  • But some refuse to go. "I can assume that the reasons are related to the war," Obrenovic says.

The big picture: Around 100,000 people were killed during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). More than half those killed were Bosniaks, many of whom were victims of ethnic cleansing.

  • During the war, Belgrade backed a bid by Bosnian Serbs to form their own mini-state and unite with Serbia. Some Serbian leaders and commanders were later charged with war crimes.

What they're saying: Dzeneta Saric says she was ten years old when her father was “killed in captivity by Serbian soldiers."

  • "But I had no choice now but to get vaccinated in Serbia," she tells Axios. She says she would always "choose my country," and that meant getting vaccinated even if the only option was to do so in Serbia.
  • Saric traveled more than 5 hours by car from Sarajevo to Novi Pazar, Serbia for her Pfizer-BioNTech shot. She might otherwise have had to wait until next year, she says, a risky proposition since her work as a journalist requires frequent in-person interaction.

The other side: Imran Bezdrob, who at 23 is too young to have experienced the war, compared getting vaccinated in Serbia to switching teams in a football match.

  • “I see a lot of people are going to Serbia to receive the vaccine, for me it is not ok," he tells Axios. "I think it would be better to wait in my country and to have a shot in my country."
  • Bezdrob, who is a personal trainer, said he got coronavirus last year and would now wait his turn, though he complained that the rollout was too slow and the government hadn't done much to improve it.

Between the lines: Thanks in part to supplies from China and Russia, Serbia has been far ahead of even most EU countries for months, with 35.3% of the country now fully vaccinated.

  • Serbia has started donating vaccines to other neighboring nations, including Montenegro and North Macedonia.

What’s next: The Bosnian government announced on Thursday that it is expecting more than 500,000 vaccines from the U.S. in July as part of the Biden administration's first wave of donations.

Go deeper

Biden says presidency "will be determined" by outcome of spending plans

President Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after addressing the House Democratic caucus on Thursday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told the House Democratic caucus Thursday "my presidency will be determined" by the votes he wants in the next week on his $1.75 trillion social safety net expansion and $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

Driving the news: Biden made the comment, according to a source in the room, as he tried to rally support for the $1.75 trillion package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acted immediately, calling for a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill later in the day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
35 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China declines to speed emissions cuts in new UN pledge

A view of the skyscrapers in the haze in Shanghai, China, in December 2020. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Chinese leaders are sticking with a prior target to bring the country's carbon emissions to a peak before 2030, according to documents filed with the United Nations Thursday under the Paris climate agreement.

Why it matters: The new documents come just days ahead of the UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow. China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its emissions path is key to whether the temperature-limiting goals of the Paris agreement can remain within reach.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden lays out $1.75 trillion "framework" before Europe departure

President Biden in Kearny, N.J., on Oct. 25. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday a "framework" for $1.75 trillion in social program and climate change spending after failing in prior efforts to win over his fellow Democrats on a much broader and costlier package.

Why it matters: Biden is gambling that by proclaiming the broad contours of the proposal, which he immediately began selling in a meeting with House Democrats before jetting off to Europe, progressives will vote for his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan if and when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor.