YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—The Armenian government has commissioned 600,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines from World Health Organization-backed COVAX Facility and hopes to receive their first batch in February, a senior official said on Friday.
They will be enough to vaccinate 300,000 people making up roughly 10 percent of Armenia’s population.
According to Gayane Sahakyan, the deputy director of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, medical and social workers, seniors and people suffering from chronic diseases will be the first to get vaccine shots free of charge.
COVAX is a global partnership which aims to finance COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed fairly to more than 180 countries that have joined it. It should give them access to several vaccine candidates in development globally. Vaccine manufacturers and suppliers will be chosen by the COVAX administration.
The Armenian government’s supply contract with COVAX is worth $6 million.
“The first vaccine which COVAX will make available to the participating countries is the one produced by the British company AstraZeneca,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “It is expected that the manufacturer will deliver it to COVAX in February or March.”
“We can directly apply to any other manufacturer and get vaccines from them,” she said. “But the cost will be quite high. Can we afford it? Of course we can’t. That is why we are mainly pinning our hopes on the COVAX Facility.”
Sahakian at the same time did not exclude that the government will urgently buy smaller quantities of vaccines from other sources for high risk categories of the population.
Late last month the Russian Ministry of Health donated several dozen doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V to Armenia. It emerged on Friday that Health Minister Arsen Torosyan and his deputy Artyom Smbatian are among Armenian volunteers vaccinated with Sputnik.
“He is feeling well and waiting for the next inoculation because the Russian vaccine involves two shots,” said Torosyan’s spokesman, Alina Nikoghosyan.
The Armenian health authorities have confirmed a total of nearly 140,000 coronavirus cases so far. The real number of infections is believed to be much higher.