Gayane Sahakian, the deputy director of the Armenian National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday that the first batch of a relatively cheap vaccine developed by the British company AstraZeneca and Oxford University will be delivered to the country soon.
Sahakian said that the choice of the vaccine was made by the supplier, the COVAX Facility global partnership supported by the World Health Organization. COVAX signed a supply contract with the Armenian government signed late last year.
In Sahakian’s words, the “first phase” of vaccination will cover medical workers, care home personnel, people aged 65 and older as well as younger Armenians suffering from chronic diseases. This was recommended earlier this week by a government commission of health experts.
The commission said that military and law-enforcement personnel, rescue and public transport workers, civil servants, schoolteachers and university lecturers should be the next to get vaccine shots free of charge. It is not clear when that could happen.
Sahakian told the press earlier this month that the authorities are planning to vaccinate only 10 percent of Armenia’s population.
She said on Friday that they are now negotiating with Russian officials on the possible acquisition of a “large quantity” of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. She did not go into details.
Nor did Sahakian say if COVID-19 vaccines could be made available to a larger percentage of the population later this year. She stressed only that the vaccination process will be voluntary.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Armenians are wary of the vaccines despite the pandemic’s severe impact on their country of about 3 million.
The Armenian Ministry of Health has registered more than 165,711 coronavirus cases and at least 3,030 deaths caused by them so far. The real number of cases is believed to be much higher.