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Health Minister Defends Armenia’s Slow Vaccine Rollout


Armenia - Minister of Health Anahit Avanesian holds a news briefing in Yerevan, September 2, 2021

Health Minister Anahit Avanesian downplayed on Wednesday the slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations in Armenia, saying that it does not testify to her government’s failure to contain the spread of COVID-19.

According the Armenian Ministry of Health, only 7 percent of the country’s population received at least one dose of a vaccine as of September 5. The figure indicates that Armenia has the lowest proportion of citizens inoculated against COVID-19 in the region.

“Yes, our indicators still have a lot of room for improvement,” Avanesian told reporters. “But I do not consider this a failure [of the government] because we opted for providing accurate information to the people and dispelling their doubts first. I believe that we have succeeded in doing that.”

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

In a bid to significantly speed up the vaccine rollout, the government is resorting to administrative measures. Avanesian decided late last month to require virtually all public and private sector employees refusing vaccination to take coronavirus tests twice a month at their own expense. The new requirement will come into effect on October 1.

The health minister said people not complying with it should not only face heavy fines but also risk losing their jobs.

The daily number of officially confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia has been slowly but steadily rising since June. The Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday morning 645 new cases and 15 deaths caused by the disease.

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