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Health Minister Sees Falling Vaccine Hesitancy In Armenia


ARMENIA -- People prepare to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mobile vaccination center in Yerevan, July 19, 2021

Although vaccine hesitancy remains widespread in Armenia, many more of its citizens are now willing to get inoculated against the coronavirus, Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said on Thursday.

Avanesian cited a recent opinion poll showing that the proportion of Armenians ready take coronavirus vaccines has risen to over 40 percent from just 10 percent in March.

“This testifies to a change in public opinion,” she said during a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan. “But of course we still have a lot to do in terms of combating disinformation and other vicious phenomena.”

The Armenian government’s immunization campaign launched in April has made slow progress so far, with less than 5 percent of the country’s population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of August 29.

Avanesian told fellow cabinet members that the process accelerated significantly this week. She said Armenian health workers administered a record 6,227 vaccine shots on Wednesday, raising to almost 294,000 the total number of inoculations.

The increase may have to do with the health minister’s decision late last month to require many public and private sector employees refusing vaccination to take coronavirus tests twice a month at their own expense.

Among those covered by the directive are civil servants, schoolteachers and workers of private firms involved in the services sectors of the Armenian economy.

Armenia - Health Minister Anahit Avanesian holds a briefing after a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, September 2, 2021.
Armenia - Health Minister Anahit Avanesian holds a briefing after a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, September 2, 2021.

The government is keen to speed up the vaccination process amid a steady increase in coronavirus cases which began two months ago and is now putting the national healthcare system under growing strain.

The Armenian Ministry of Health recorded on Wednesday 636 cases and 21 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest single-day death toll from COVID-19 reported in months.

The government has pledged in recent weeks to toughen its lax enforcement of anti-epidemic rules, notably mandatory mask wearing inside buses, shops and offices.

Avanesian acknowledged that the rules are still ignored by most Armenians. “Yes, we do have room for improving our enforcement,” she told journalists.

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