Dashboard: Vaccinating Eurasia - April
Vaccine uptake, the latest case surges, and related news from Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
Approved: Sputnik V, AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech
Population: 3 million
- Fifty-six percent of Armenians will not seek a vaccine, CivilNet reported on April 19, citing a survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center. The survey found women and young people less likely to accept a jab.
- Armenia's vaccination campaign got off to a slow start on April 13, our correspondent reports. The Health Ministry says it does not regularly publish vaccination figures. As of April 28, just 2,600 people had received shots. Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the figure “shamefully low” on April 29 and urged all members of his government to get their shots within a week.
- Acting Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan and Acting Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan both publicly received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 28 to allay qualms about the shot. The next day Avanesyan said that she was feeling good and hoped her example would be contagious.
- Vaccination centers will henceforth be open on weekends, officials announced on April 28. The Health Ministry will introduce mobile vaccination units in cities during the first week of May.
- The Kremlin-run Sputnik website reported on April 20 that Armenians are eager for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, though its reporter found only a trickle of people lining up for the jab.
- Most people will receive the AstraZeneca shot, the health minister said on April 12, though people younger than age 55 will be eligible for Sputnik V. 100,000 doses of Sinovac will arrive in early May, the health minister said on April 27.
- Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan announced on April 14 that the government had negotiated to receive 1 million Sputnik V doses from Russia, Interfax reported. She did not say when they would arrive, though she said she hopes to vaccinate 20 percent of the population by the end of the year.
- 100,000 doses of Sinovac are on their way from China, state media reported on April 30. It was not immediately clear if they were approved for use in Armenia.
- At the end of March, the Health Ministry said that 565 healthcare workers had been vaccinated, all with free samples of Russia's Sputnik V. Another 15,000 Sputnik V vaccines purchased from Russia arrived on April 8. The previous day, during a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his country needs a million more. 14,000 arrived on April 27.
- On March 28, Armenia received its first shipment of 24,000 AstraZeneca doses from the Covax global vaccine sharing initiative.
Approved: Sinovac, Sputnik V and AstraZeneca
Population: 10 million
- Azerbaijan began its vaccination campaign on January 18 with Beijing-based Sinovac’s CoronaVac, for which it has contracted 4 million doses. It has also been promised 506,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Covax; the first batch of 84,000 were delivered on April 4, the Health Ministry said.
- As of April 30, 1.49 million doses have been administered and 522,000 people have been fully inoculated.
- China has donated another 150,000 shots, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry announced on April 27 in a press release that stressed the doses were free, but did not say who made them.
A nurse in Baku was arrested for falsely registering a patient as vaccinated, Turan.az reported on April 24. Twelve doctors around the country were fired for issuing fake vaccination certificates, Turan reported on April 9.
Azerbaijan will begin distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine on May 3 to people over age 60, state media reported on April 30. The country has received 84,000 doses through the COVAX program.
- President Ilham Aliyev has several times condemned what he calls developed countries’ “unequal and unfair distribution” of vaccines.
- Azerbaijan is taking part in an experiment, along with Russia, Ukraine, and several countries in the Middle East, in which subjects will get a first dose of the AstraZeneca and then a second dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
- Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh were vaccinated in February, Armenian state media reported.
Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto Health Ministry announced it had begun vaccinations on April 19 with both the Sputnik V and AstraZeneca jabs, Caucasian Knot reported. Russian-Armenians have sent 7,500 doses of Sputnik for residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan reported on April 26.
Approved: AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinopharm
Population: 3.7 million
- Georgia began its vaccine campaign on March 15 with 43,200 doses of AstraZeneca sourced through Covax. Another 29,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, also through Covax, arrived on March 25. As of April 30, 45,000 shots had been administered and 4,400 people fully vaccinated. The Pfizer shots were the most popular and quickly used up; Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said he is negotiating with Pfizer for 1 million doses, Interpress reported on April 27.
- Georgia began allowing people over the age of 18 to receive the Sinopharm vaccine on April 27, RFE/RL reported. The country received 100,000 doses in early April. “The level of safety and effectiveness of this vaccine is very high,” Chinese Ambassador Li Yang told an April 5 press conference. In addition, 100,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine arrived on April 30. Li had said these would be a gift.
- Georgia is considering cancelling curfew for the vaccinated to encourage uptake, RFE/RL reported on April 28.
- The first 6,500 doses of Sputnik V arrived in the Russian protectorate of Abkhazia on April 30, Ekho Kavkaza reported. Vaccination will begin after the May 1-7 holidays.
- Authorities say they are seeing signs of a third wave and increased strain on hospitals, Ekho Kavkaza reported on April 21.
- People over the age of 55 became eligible on April 5. Officials announced on April 8 that they would only administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to persons over age 55. Britain has limited distribution to people younger than 30 due to the rare risk of blot clots.
- A third-wave of infections has begun in Georgia, the head of the country's National Centre for Disease Control said on April 12.
- Vaccine reluctance is widespread, especially after a nurse died shortly after she received her first jab on television on March 18. Georgians were broadly hesitant even before the tragedy. One recent survey conducted prior to the nurse’s death showed that over a half of Georgians were reluctant to get the jab.
- Two doctors and a nurse were charged on April 9 for lying about their attempts to save her.
- Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze announced on April 7 that a website to schedule vaccinations will soon be available.
- Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili tested positive for COVID on April 6. After recovering, he returned to work on April 20.
- The prospect of purchasing Russian medicine at taxpayers’ expense has sparked some controversy in Georgia, where Russia is seen as an invader and occupant. Health officials have assured Georgians that the government has no plans to purchase Russian vaccines, but did not categorically rule out the possibility.
- The Russia-backed breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia has not yet received the doses of Sputnik V Russia had promised and thus vaccinations have not begun, RFE/RL’s Georgian service reported on April 19.
Approved: Sputnik V, QazVac
Population: 19 million
Domestic vaccine: Mass vaccination with 50,000 doses of the domestic QazVac jab began on April 26. Health Minister Alexei Tsoi received the shot on live television (The next day he said his arm was a little sore overnight, but that he otherwise felt fine.). By the end of the year, the country should be able to produce 500,000 doses per month, Deputy Prime Minister Yeraly Tugzhanov said on April 22. QazVac can be stored in a regular refrigerator and requires two doses three weeks apart. The results of third-stage clinical trials have not yet been released, but the government's website says “its complete safety has been proven, the vaccine forms a strong immunity against coronavirus infection.” President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on April 23 that production would be increased until it is available for every Kazakh citizen. Kazakhstan is working on four other vaccines against coronavirus, state media reported on April 30
The general population became eligible for vaccination on April 1. Our Kazakhstan correspondent describes the waiting, the bureaucracy, and the anticlimax of getting his Sputnik V jab in Almaty.
- Over 1 million people have received a first dose as of April 29 and about 1.2 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The deputy health minister said there are 1,051 vaccination centers across the country.
- Police are investigating media reports that a vaccine passport can be purchased in Almaty for 15,000 tenge (about $35).
- Officials in the northeastern city of Semey say they will punish local doctors for violating COVID-19 treatment protocols, TengriNews reported on April 26.
- Oil workers in Aktobe region will be offered the Sinopharm vaccine starting on April 30, local health officials said. The doses are being produced in the UAE and will be named Hayat-Vax, TengriNews reported on April 27.
- After a handful reported subsequent COVID-19 infections, authorities explained that it can take six weeks after the first shot of Sputnik V to develop immunity. A health official said about 800 people have been reinfected with coronavirus in Kazakhstan, a jump from only two cases previously registered, Interfax reported on April 21.
- The health minister believes that under the current vaccination schedule the virus will peak in mid-May, he told a government meeting on April 20.
- Social media has been abuzz with rumors that people who refuse vaccination will be fined. They are not true, the fact-checking website StopFake.kz reported on April 21.
- Medical students have complained their university is forcing them to be vaccinated, TengriNews reported on April 19.
- Government-run broadcaster Khabar on April 13 claimed that 90 percent of Kazakh oil workers are refusing their jabs. The allegation is that laborers are reluctant to forgo the quarantine bonuses they have been receiving since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Kazakhstan. State media on April 20 reported that more than 4,000 oil workers at the giant Tengiz field have received Sputnik V. The regional health department stressed that the vaccine campaign is not compulsory.
Bakdaulet Abdrakhmanov, the chief imam of Shymkent, received his first shot on the first day of Ramadan, telling Muslims that the vaccine does not violate the fast. "If you suddenly feel unwell after the vaccination, you can interrupt the fast for a while, this applies to any diseases,” state media quoted him as saying.
- President Tokayev received the Sputnik V vaccine manufactured in Karaganda on April 6, his spokesperson said. Tokayev had earlier pledged to wait for the domestic vaccine, prompting his spokesman to clarify that he will receive that one, too, when it is ready. Health Minister Alexei Tsoi reiterated on April 7 that he would wait for the Kazakh vaccine.
- Journalists were shown vials of the future QazVac vaccine on April 9. A deputy prime minister said the vaccine will be produced in Kazakhstan and bottled in Turkey; 50,000 doses should be distributed by the end of April, state media reported; QazVac will require two doses, much like its better-known analogues.
- Prime Minister Askar Mamin said on April 6 that he hoped Kazakhstan would reach herd immunity with 10 million people inoculated by September, Interfax reported. On April 14, officials said they expected to receive 2 million doses by the end of April.
- The government released details of its digital vaccination passport on April 20 while pledging there will be no restrictions on the unvaccinated. Authorities announced on April 5 that people who had received two doses were issued digital vaccine passports that can be downloaded from the Egov-mobile app, Interfax reported
- Infections in the capital are up 240 percent over last July, Tengrinews reported on April 9. In late March, Almaty was registering more cases than during the worst periods of 2020. Infections in April are three times higher than in March, Health Minister Tsoi said on April 12, TengriNews reported.
- A plant in the central city of Karaganda is producing Sputnik V doses under license, though on April 7 authorities asked Russia to send more. The president met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on April 8. The two discussed shortages of Sputnik V shots, Vlast.kz reported.
- Kazakhstan, where neither of the Chinese vaccines is authorized, announced on March 26 that it would take 3 million doses of the Sinovac-produced jab.
- Kazakh scientists are planning to develop vaccines for animals, Interfax reported on April 8.
Using: Sinopharm, Sputnik V
Population: 6.5 million
Kyrgyzstan began its vaccination campaign on March 29 with 150,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. Initial interest has been low. Just over 13,000 people had received shots by April 23.
Enthusiasm picked up when the Russian Sputnik V jab became available on April 23 to people age 65 and older. A batch of 20,000 doses arrived on April 22. Elderly people endured a long queue for the Sputnik V vaccine in central Bishkek, a social media user reported on April 26. Because of increasing demand in the capital, Bishkek will open more vaccination centers, Kloop.kg reported on April 28.
Over 27,000 people had received shots as of April 28; of those, 858 had received both doses.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected in May. First Deputy Prime Minister Artem Novikov told parliament on April 28 that 40,000 doses of Sputnik V will arrive in May, AKIpress reported. The country hopes to vaccinate at-risk populations by the autumn, he said.
An online (and thus not representative) poll of 3,100 Kyrgyzstanis conducted by the 24.kg news agency found 75 percent would accept the Sputnik V jab, 5 percent the AstraZeneca shot when it becomes available, and only 3 percent would consent to taking the Sinopharm vaccine, which has been available since March. 17 percent said they would not be vaccinated, the website reported on April 26.
There are about 80 vaccination points in the country, 24.kg reported on April 27.
Lab samples sent to Russia in March have confirmed the British, South African, Indian and Russian strains are circulating in Kyrgyzstan, the Health Ministry said on April 22.
Kyrgyzstan’s president has alarmed health specialists by recommending coronavirus patients consume a brew made with a poison root. In a bid to quell the outcry over those remarks, the country’s health minister, Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev, gathered journalists for a press conference on April 16 and drank the concoction in front of them. The president's Facebook posts about the root were taken down that weekend; Facebook says it deleted the posts for spreading misinformation whereas the president's office said he had deleted the posts himself. Within days, several people were admitted to hospital for poisoning.
- Deputy Prime Minister Ulukbek Karmyshakov said on April 19 that Kyrgyzstan does not have the funds to provide shots for everybody, Kloop.kg reported, and that Bishkek hopes humanitarian aid will satisfy demand. He added that his government is investigating how to produce Sputnik V locally, Akipress reported.
- On April 5 Health Minister Beishenaliev blamed journalists for depressing vaccine enthusiasm. He was referring to viral, fact-deficient Facebook post by a former Health Ministry spokesperson claiming that an employee of the Foreign Ministry died after receiving his shot on April 1. The post questioned the safety of the Chinese-made vaccine.
- Kyrgyzstan expects to receive over 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax program in May or June. The health minister said on April 14 that the drug will not be distributed if the WHO finds reasons for concern. The WHO has said it is safe.
- Kyrgyzstan is short 3,000 doctors, President Sadyr Japarov wrote on Instagram on April 9, citing the low salaries.
- The government-run Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan said on April 2 that vaccination does not violate the Ramadan fast. Ramadan begins at sunset on April 12 this year.
- A survey by the Health Ministry with the support of the WHO found 55 percent of the population is willing to be vaccinated, Knews reported on April 6. The survey of 1,000 people found 18 percent reported having used antibiotics to prevent or treat coronavirus. Antibiotics do not work against viruses and misuse is dangerous.
Population: 9.3 million
Prime Minister Kohir Rasulzoda, during a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Kazan on April 29, asked for help procuring Russian shots, saying that Tajiks trust them more than what is currently available.
Vaccinations began on March 22 with 192,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, known as Covishield, received through the Covax program. Tajikistan expects to receive about 20 percent of the doses it needs through COVAX and will need to purchase the rest. “Negotiations are currently underway with China and Russia and I am confident that vaccines will be imported from these countries in the near future,” Ozodi on April 18 quoted a Health Ministry official as saying.
As of April 18, Ozodi reported, over 28,000 people had received shots with about 2,000 more being inoculated daily.
The country’s highest-ranking clerics have said that because the vaccine is injected, it does not break the Ramadan fast, Asia-Plus reported on April 16.
- The president on April 9 again insisted his country has registered no cases since early January and praised his decision to abandon quarantine last year, Ozodi reported, adding that many countries (he did not specify which) were studying Tajikistan's experience fighting the virus.
- There appears to be widespread confusion about the need for vaccinations after the government spent months claiming it had defeated COVID-19. There is also hesitancy about using the available shots due to AstraZeneca's controversial rollout in Europe. The head of a clinic in Dushanbe suggested waiting until European countries have made a firm conclusion about the risk of blood clots.
Approved: Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona
Population: 5-6 million
- Hospitals are overwhelmed in Ashgabat as the country experiences a fourth wave of COVID-19, Radio Azatlyk reported on April 9, citing local doctors. Many are dying of related complications.
- Government officials still insist no cases of COVID-19 have appeared in Turkmenistan, despite ample evidence to the contrary. State media rarely mention the pandemic, vaccinations, or any facet of the crisis.
- The government is currently vaccinating teachers with the Chinese-made Sinopharm shot, RFE/RL’s Turkmen service reported on April 7. Medical workers and other first responders were vaccinated earlier. China claimed it had delivered a batch of the China-made Sinopharm vaccine on March 6. There is no indication the state has approved its use.
- It is unclear how many people have received a jab. Amsterdam-based Turkmen.news reported on March 18 that the Sinopharm vaccine was being offered to the elderly.
- RFE/RL added that the Russian-made Sputnik V shot is available for purchase; a full regimen costs approximately $285 at the official exchange rate.
- Russian officials said Turkmenistan became the first country in Central Asia to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, on January 18. Later that month, Ashgabat approved use of EpiVacCorona, also produced by Russia.
Administering: AstraZeneca, Anhui Zhifei Longcom (China), Sputnik V
Population: 33 million
- Uzbekistan has received 100,000 doses of Sputnik V as of April 27, the government said. Distribution to people over age 65 will begin on April 28. Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov asked his Russian counterpart to send more Sputnik V vaccines, Kun.uz reported on April 29.
- The Health Ministry said that over 500,000 does of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered since April 1.
- Uzbekistan is the only country in the region to extensively cooperate with China, conducting third-phase trials of the Anhui Zhifei Longcom jab over the winter. One million doses reportedly arrived in Tashkent on March 27 and another one million on April 27. First Deputy Minister of Innovative Development Shahlo Turdikulova has said that she and her family were vaccinated with ZF-UZ-VAC 2001, which requires three shots over 28 days. On April 19, scientists announced the vaccine is effective against variants.
- 263,000 have received a dose of the three-dose ZF-UZ-VAC 2001 so far, or 46 percent of all those who have been inoculated. Teachers in Tashkent began receiving this shot on April 27, Radio Ozodlik reported.
- The Sputnik V vaccine is not available in Samarkand because the region does not have freezers capable of storing it, local media reported on April 28.
The Academy of Sciences announced on April 20 that an antiviral drug based on the sumac plant and developed jointly with China prevents coronavirus from multiplying in the human body and is the “only effective drug” to fight the virus. Rutan is cheaper than a coronavirus test and should be taken at the first signs of infection, the Academy said. Yet clinical trials were carried out with only 103 patients.
- The country’s top clerics announced that vaccination will not violate the Ramadan fast, Ozodlik reported on April 12. The holy month this year begins at sunset on April 12.
- The government announced tighter quarantine restrictions effective April 18, Interfax reported on April 17. Seating in restaurants and buses has been reduced by half; concert halls will close on May 1.
- The government announced on April 14 that it would begin issuing digital vaccination certificates.
- The Innovation Ministry denied that there are shortages of ZF-UZ-VAC 2001 and that no one should worry their second shot will be unavailable, Podrobno.uz reported on April 26.
- A survey conducted in late March on the Telegram instant messaging app found 44 percent of respondents would refuse vaccination.
Healthcare workers have told Radio Ozodlik that they are being coerced into receiving the vaccine. The government says the shot is voluntary.
- Uzbekistan plans to test a Russian COVID vaccine for animals, Podrobno.uz reported on April 13.
For several months during the initial outbreak, we chronicled daily news from across our coverage region. See our previous coronavirus dashboards here.
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