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Authorities Unfazed By Concerns About AstraZeneca Vaccine


Vials labeled "AstraZeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo, March 10, 2021.

Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said on Thursday that Armenian authorities will start administering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine later this month despite lingering questions about its safety.

Armenia received on Monday the first 24,000 doses of the vaccine from COVAX Facility, the World Health Organization’s global vaccine-sharing scheme. The Ministry of Health said they will be made available to medical workers, care home personnel, persons aged 65 and older as well as younger people suffering from chronic diseases.

More than a dozen European countries halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month after reports linked it to a rare blood clotting disorder in a very small number of people. Some of them, including Germany and France, resumed inoculations after the European Union’s drug regulator said it is safe.

Avanesian said that there has been no scientific evidence of grave side effects caused by the vaccine.

“We will use AstraZeneca and all other vaccines which are effective and meet all safety requirements, according to the findings of international expert bodies,” she told journalists.

“Some countries have temporarily stopped using a certain amount [of vaccine shots] while others have again started doing that. There are also countries that never refused [the AstraZeneca vaccine,]” she said.

Armenia -- Health Minister Anahit Avanesian speaks during a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, March 11, 2021.
Armenia -- Health Minister Anahit Avanesian speaks during a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, March 11, 2021.

Avanesian said the Armenian health authorities will therefore start distributing the vaccine to policlinics across the country on Monday. Policlinic medics are already being trained to properly inoculate individuals eligible for the first shots, added the minister.

The authorities are launching their first vaccination campaign amid what they describe as a third wave of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed Armenian hospitals.

The Ministry of Health reported earlier on Thursday that 28 more people infected with COVID-19 have died in the past 24 hours. It registered almost 1,100 single-day coronavirus cases.

Avanesian said that the hospitals will set up this week an additional 300 beds for COVID-19 patients in need of intensive therapy. “Hospital beds are not unlimited,” she warned.

Armenia -- Healthcare workers wearing protective gear are seen outside the Nork Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Yerevan, June 5, 2020.
Armenia -- Healthcare workers wearing protective gear are seen outside the Nork Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Yerevan, June 5, 2020.

So far only several hundred people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus in the country of about 3 million.

The Armenian government reportedly plans to buy 15,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. It is also understood to expect more vaccine deliveries through the COVAX scheme.

But the government has given no indications that it is planning to inoculate most Armenians this year. Avanesian implied in February that people not included in “high risk” categories of the population will have to pay for their vaccination at private medical centers.

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