Avanesian told reporters that the country will receive this fall 50,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine and 300,000 doses of the Novavax jab.
She said the Armenian government is also planning to purchase the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine through the World Health Organization’s global COVAX Facility. The government has not done that so far because of a lack of ultra-cold freezers needed for storing the vaccine, she said.
Armenian health authorities are currently using only vaccines developed by Russia, China as well as Oxford University and the Anglo-Swedish company Astra Zeneca in their immunization campaign launched in mid-April. According to Avanesian, only 103,317 vaccine shots were administered in the country of about 3 million as of Friday morning.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met with the health minister and other senior officials on June 30 to discuss ways of addressing a lack of popular interest in COVID-19 vaccinations. He said relevant government agencies must do more to encourage people to get vaccinated.
The vaccination process appears to have gained momentum in the last few days not least because of an apparent influx of people from neighboring Iran keen to get free shots offered to not only Armenians but also foreign nationals visiting the country. Long lines formed outside policlinics and other vaccination centers across Yerevan earlier this week.
This prompted the Armenian Ministry of Health to restrict on Thursday non-resident foreigners’ access to those facilities. From now on foreigners who do not have Armenian residency permits or arrived in the country less than ten days ago can get vaccinated only at mobile sites set up in shopping malls and several major streets in downtown Yerevan.
Hundreds of mostly young Iranians continued to queue up outside one such outdoor facility on Friday. Some of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is much easier in Armenia than in Iran where priority is given to elderly people and younger citizens have to wait for inoculation for weeks.
Another Iranian, a young woman, said she travelled to Armenia because “we don’t have good vaccines in our country.”