Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said the 15,000 doses of the vaccine will be used to inoculate 7,500 people at highest risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Preference will be given to health workers of COVID [medical] centers, patients suffering from chronic illnesses and people aged 65 and older,” Avanesian told reporters.
The same high-risk groups of the population are also eligible for 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine which the Armenian government purchased and imported on March 28.
Health authorities were due to start administering the AstraZeneca vaccine shots on April 5. The inoculations were postponed, however, due what government officials called logistical problems.
Avanesian downplayed the delay, saying that the government’s vaccination efforts remain on track.
The minister also complained that the government has trouble buying larger quantities of coronavirus vaccines manufactured by various countries.
“All vaccines are sold to small countries in very small quantities,” she said. “It’s very hard to acquire them.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian raised the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met in Moscow on Wednesday.
Pashinian asked Putin to help Yerevan buy many more doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. “We need more than a million doses,” he said.
“Our [vaccine] production is gaining momentum … So I think that we will solve this problem,” replied Putin.
The Russian Embassy in Yerevan described the first major shipment of Sputnik V shots as a “continuation of Russia’s large-scale support for Armenia in the fight against COVID-19.” It said Russia donated 2,000 Sputnik doses to the South Caucasus country earlier this year.
Armenia has been hit hard by the pandemic and is currently grappling with a third wave of coronavirus infections.
The Armenian Ministry of Health said earlier on Thursday that 1,231 new coronavirus cases have been registered in the country of about 3 million in the past day. It also reported the deaths of 32 more people infected with COVID-19.
The daily numbers of cases and deaths have increased sharply since the end of February. Critics blame the resurgence of the acute respiratory disease on the authorities’ failure to enforce their physical distancing and sanitary rules.
Few Armenians now wear mandatory face masks not only on in the streets but also shops and even public buses. Schools, theaters, restaurants and cafes across the country remain open.