The government allocated about 3.5 billion drams ($7.3 million) for the purchase of 300,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 200,000 doses of another COVID-19 jab developed by China’s Sinopharm corporation.
A government statement said that they will be shipped to Armenia through the World Health Organization’s global COVAX Facility scheme. It gave no concrete time frames for their delivery.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Health, the country of about 3 million has received a total of 272,460 doses of AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Coronavac vaccines to date.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said only about 163,000 vaccine shots have been administered since the launch of the government’s immunization campaign in April.
The official figure stood at just over 131,000 on July 19 and more than 152,500 on July 26, suggesting that roughly 3,000 Armenians are inoculated on a daily basis at present.
The vaccination process progressed much more slowly until this month. Avanesian expressed hope that it will accelerate further after the delivery of the new batches of vaccines.
The minister at the same time reaffirmed government plans for administrative measures designed to encourage people to get vaccinated. In particular, she told reporters, public sector employees as well as workers of companies providing public services may soon be required to take regular coronavirus tests at their own expense in case of refusing vaccination.
An opinion poll commissioned by the U.S. International Republican Institute and released in April suggested that 71 percent of Armenians do not want to get vaccinated.
Avanesian insisted on Monday that public attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines have changed significantly since then. But she said many people are in no rush to get them because of relatively low coronavirus infection rates recorded by Armenian health authorities since the beginning of June.
The minister reiterated on Thursday that the daily number of coronavirus cases is now rising slowly but steadily and that the vaccines are essential for preventing another wave of infections this fall.
The Ministry of Health reported that 233 people tested for the coronavirus in the past day, up from less than 100 cases a day routinely recorded in June. It also registered 10 more deaths directly or indirectly caused by COVID-19.