Pashinian said that only about 2, 700 people making up less than 0.1 percent of Armenia’s population have been vaccinated since the campaign was launched on April 13. “This is a shamefully low figure,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
Pashinian said the vaccination is critical for not only minimizing coronavirus infections and resulting deaths but also accelerating the country’s recovery from a recession caused by the pandemic.
“If we don’t register a significant vaccination rate over the next month our tourism industry may have very serious problems this year as well,” he warned.
Armenia received 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on March 28 and 43,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V jab in the following weeks. The government plans to import more vaccines in the coming weeks.
The campaign was initially limited to medical workers, seniors and people suffering from chronic diseases. With few of them apparently showing an interest in the vaccines, Health Minister Anahit Avanesian allowed medical centers late last week to administer AstraZeneca shots to all adults willing to take them.
Many Armenians remain wary of doing so because of recent reports linking the Astra Zeneca vaccine to a rare blood clotting disorder. Both Pashinian and Avanesian insisted on Thursday that the risk of serious side-effects is minimal.
Avanesian and Deputy Minister Tigran Avinian publicly took AstraZeneca shots on Wednesday in an effort to allay the fears and encourage Armenians to follow their example.
“I’m feeling very well and hope that this example will be contagious,” the health minister told fellow cabinet members. She urged them to also get vaccinated.
Pashinian said in this regard that all government members must receive vaccine injections within a week.
Armenia has been hit hard by the pandemic, with a total 215,528 infections and almost 5,090 coronavirus-related deaths officially confirmed to date. The Armenian Ministry of Health reported on Thursday that 20 more people infected with COVID-19 have died in the past day.
An ongoing third wave of infections in the country of about 3 million began in late February. Critics blame the resurgence of COVID-19 on the authorities’ failure to enforce their physical distancing and sanitary restrictions.