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Armenia Scraps Restrictions For AstraZeneca Vaccine


Germany - A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the general practice of Doctor Claudia Schramm in Maintal, March 24, 2021.

The Armenian Ministry of Health has allowed all adults to take AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot amid a slow pace of vaccinations in the country hit hard by the pandemic.

The ministry launched its vaccination campaign on April 13, initially targeting only frontline workers, seniors and chronically ill people aged 55 and older. They are eligible for the AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The campaign was extended a week later to younger people deemed most at risk from the coronavirus. For safety reasons they are offered only the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

According to health authorities, only about 2,200 Armenians were vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday despite an ongoing third wave of coronavirus infections in the country of about 3 million.

Nearly 11,000 people eligible for the vaccines are registered with Yerevan’s state policlinic No. 17. Only 43 of them have taken AstraZeneca or Sputnik V shots so far, the policlinic director, Satenik Badalian, complained on Tuesday.

Badalian spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service as she herself was inoculated at the primary healthcare center. She urged more people to follow her example.

It emerged that Health Minister Anahit Avanesian decided at the weekend to expand eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to all people aged 18 and older.

Avanesian said earlier that May 31 is the use-by date of the first 24,000 doses of the vaccine imported to Armenia on March 28. Gayane Sahakian, the deputy director of the ministry’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, insisted that this is not the reason why the minister eliminated the age restrictions and other requirements for Armenians willing to get the AstraZeneca jab.

“In recent days we have received many phone calls from people who want to be vaccinated but are not included in any high-risk group,” said Sahakian.

Sahakian also made clear that the authorities are maintaining their restrictions on the use of Sputnik V. It is still restricted to vulnerable people aged between 18 and 54, she said.

Armenian received 15,000 doses of the Russian vaccine on April 8 and another 28,000 doses on Monday.

The Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday morning 595 new single-day coronavirus infections and 18 deaths directly caused by COVID-19. It said more than 1,200 people infected with the disease are in a serious or critical condition.

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