Avanesian said that only about 12,000 people making up 0.4 percent of Armenia’s population received a first vaccine dose as of Monday.
“This figure is definitely not satisfactory and we are trying to increase the pace [of vaccinations,]” she said, answering questions from Facebook users at the RFE/RL studio in Yerevan.
Asked when the country could achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 at this rate, she said: “We will probably need one year to reach the threshold where we can bid farewell to COVID-19.”
“Of course, that depends on a number of factors. We cannot say how many people will be applying [for vaccine shots] in the next one or two months. We are doing everything to make vaccination accessible,” added the minister.
The vaccination campaign was launched on April 13 weeks after Armenia received a total of 67,000 doses of the AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines. The AstraZeneca jab was made available to all adults willing to take it while Sputnik V is administered only to frontline workers and chronically ill persons under the age of 55.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian complained about the slow pace of vaccinations on April 29, telling his ministers to get vaccine shots and thus set an example to skeptical citizens. The health authorities set up mobile vaccination facilities at shopping malls and on major streets in Yerevan in the following days.
Avanesian said that although the daily number of inoculated people has grown since then more time is needed to raise public awareness of the vaccination campaign and its importance.
Armenia also received on May 1 100,000 doses of the CoronaVac vaccine donated by China. In Avanesian’s words, the health authorities started on Monday distributing them to policlinics across the country in preparation for their use.
The minister also revealed that the Armenian government is now negotiating with the U.S. company Novavax on the purchase of its coronavirus vaccine. She did not specify the possible volume and timeframes of its delivery.
Armenia faced earlier this year a third wave of coronavirus infections blamed by health experts on the authorities’ failure to enforce their sanitary safety rules. Despite the continuing lack of such enforcement, the daily number of new cases has fallen for the last two weeks.
The Armenian Ministry of Health reported 243 single-day coronavirus cases on Tuesday morning, sharply down from over 1,000 cases repeatedly registered in the first half of April.
The ministry has recorded just over 5,300 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.