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Armenia Gets First AstraZeneca COVID-19 Shots


Armenia -- The first batch of Astra-Zeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is delivered to Yerevan airport, March 28, 2021.

Armenia received on Sunday the first batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX Facility, the World Health Organization’s global vaccine-sharing scheme.

The Armenian Ministry of Health said it will use the 24,000 doses of the vaccine to inoculate medical workers, care home personnel, persons aged 65 and older as well as younger people suffering from chronic diseases.

The ministry reportedly purchased last month 15,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. They too are supposed to be made available to “high risk” groups of the country’s population.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said the Armenian government is now trying to buy more vaccine shots when they spoke on Monday at a meeting of an interagency commission dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. A government statement on the meeting shed no light on the scale of further vaccine acquisitions planned by the authorities.

A deputy director of Armenia’s National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gayane Sahakian, said in December that the government has commissioned 600,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine from the COVAX Facility. But Sahakian and other officials indicated afterwards that the government is planning to finance a much more limited vaccination campaign.

Avanesian hinted in February that Armenians not included in “high risk” categories will have to pay for their vaccine shots. She said private medical centers will be authorized to carry out such vaccination.

COVAX delivered the first batch of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University to Armenia as the country of about 3 million grappled with what health officials describe as a third wave of coronavirus infections.

The daily number of such cases recorded by Armenian health authorities has surged over the past month after falling significantly since November. The resurgence of the disease has forced the authorities to set up hundreds of new hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

The Ministry of Health reported on Monday morning 424 new infections and 12 single-day deaths caused by COVID-19. According to it, the total number of active coronavirus cases stood at 14,287, up from 6,772 reported on March 11.

Speaking at the meeting of the government commission, Avanesian warned that the epidemiological situation will worsen further unless the authorities resume a strict enforcement of their sanitary rules designed to curb the spread of the disease.

The rules include mandatory mask-wearing in all public areas. Few Armenians now wear masks not only on the street but also in shops. Cafes and restaurants across the country have remained open since last May.

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