Attitudes toward masks were revealed to the world during the Olympics opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23, when the teams from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan paraded "mostly maskless," Reuters reported, "marking an awkward contrast with other national teams who covered their faces in line with COVID-19 protocols."
Who's eligible: Armenia has taken the rare step of offering the vaccine to anyone, including foreigners, without registration. On July 1, all adults became eligible. On July 15, new regulations made it harder for foreigners to receive vaccines on quick trips to Armenia after the country was deluged by Iranians seeking inoculations.
- The Health Ministry on July 9 said that, of the 279,460 doses imported so far, 26.6 percent were AstraZeneca, 37.5 percent were Sputnik V, and 35.7 percent were Sinovac.
- Armenia has begun producing Sputnik V under license from Russia, Ekho Kavkaza reported on July 1. The first batches must undergo tests before being distributed. 14,000 doses of Sputnik V arrived from Russia on May 11. Another 60,000 doses arrived on June 19 and 15,000 more arrived on July 7.
- 50,000 AstraZeneca doses arrived through the international Covax program on May 17.
How it's going: Infections are rising again while the rate of vaccination has fallen from about 2,000 per day to 1,500 in recent weeks, said Gayane Sahakyan, the deputy director of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on June 22.
- On July 1, masks for vaccinated people became optional indoors. They had been optional outdoors for the previous month.
- Companies close to senior Health Ministry officials have enjoyed lucrative contracts during the fight against coronavirus, Civilnet reported in a detailed June 16 investigation.
Who's eligible: All adults.
What's available: Azerbaijan initially contracted with Beijing-based Sinovac for 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; distribution began on May 3.
- China has donated 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.
- The first 40,000 doses of Sputnik V arrived from Russia on May 2 and another shipment of 40,000 doses arrived on June 10. Baku has requested 300,000 doses. The vaccine became available for everyone over age 18 on May 18. State media reported that demand was high.
- Two hospitals in Baku began offering the Pfizer vaccine on June 7, state media reported. There are 218,000 doses available.
The Delta variant has been detected in 31 people, local media reported on July 13.
Vaccine passport: The Cabinet of Ministers on July 26 announced that as of September 1, it would begin mandating vaccinations for government employees and university students. Moreover, adults without a vaccine passport will not be allowed to enter restaurants or shops. Many expect the new rules to drive a black market for fake vaccination passports.
- The Health Ministry announced on July 2 that people who had their second shot more than six months ago are now eligible for a third.
- Azerbaijan has sent vaccines to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
What's available: Several months ago, officials were assuring Georgians that they would not resort to Chinese jabs. Now they’re about the only thing available, we reported on July 8.
- 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived as humanitarian aid from the U.S. on July 24.
- One million doses of Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines arrived in Georgia, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced on July 2. Another 500,000 doses of Sinovac arrived on July 18.
- Georgia received 43,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX on July 10, UNICEF announced.
- Georgia began using the Sinopharm vaccine on May 4. The head of the National Center for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, publicly received the jab the same day, Interpress reported. The country received 100,000 doses of the Sinopharm shot 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. The country also began distributing the Sinovac shots to people over age 18 on May 24.
- Initially, Georgia began with 86,200 doses of AstraZeneca sourced through Covax. People over age 45 became eligible for the AstraZeneca shot on May 11.
How it's going:
- Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili on July 26 blamed a new spike in cases on a wave of protests against his government: "The infection rate has practically doubled in the last two weeks. This is a direct result of several days of irresponsible protests," Interpressnews quoted him as saying.
- Cases are rising again. More than 400 tourists have tested positive over the last month, the head of the National Center for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, said on June 29. Some were carrying the virus when they arrived in Georgia; others tested positive after they had entered the country.
- Vaccine reluctance is widespread.
- An outbreak in South Ossetia is forcing the breakaway region's parliament to go on summer vacation early, official media reported July 13.
The government on July 1 introduced new rules requiring most people working in contact with the public – anywhere from government offices and stores to leisure facilities – to show evidence of vaccination before being allowed into their place of work. An employer cannot fire, but may suspend unvaccinated employees without pay, the labor minister said on July 13. Employees can continue to work if they pay for a PCR test every week.
Fake vaccine passports: Meanwhile, a thriving black market has developed for fake vaccination certificates, making it impossible to know how many people have been jabbed with the real thing.
- State media reported July 9 that a travel agency had forged 143 vaccination passports to help clients go on the hajj pilgrimage. Separately, the same day officials said that doctors in three different regions were detained for forging such documents.
Domestic vaccine controversy: Kazakhstan introduced a homegrown vaccine, QazVac, in April and said it was 96 percent effective months before third-stage clinical trials were completed. It has been dogged by controversy as local scientists say they want to see clinical data. Minister of Education and Science Askhat Aimagambetov defended the drug on June 11, saying that two international medical journals, which he refused to name, were reviewing studies on phases 1 and 2 of the clinical trials, Vlast.kz reported. Phase 3 will be finished in July.
- Kazakhstan is also producing Russia's Sputnik V.
- Health Minister Alexei Tsoi on July 28 opened a pharmaceutical plant in Zhambyl region to mass produce the domestic QazVac shot.
- The first 500,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine arrived in Kazakhstan on June 1, Interfax reported.
- Clinical trials of another domestic vaccine, known as QazCoVac-P, have begun, Azatlyk cited officials as saying on June 16.
Almost one-third of Kazakhstan's vaccination centers do not have the correct storage facilities, Vlast.kz quoted the president as saying on July 19: "This explains the decrease in effectiveness." The official transcript of his speech did not elaborate about steps to correct the problem.
Several small rallies against compulsory vaccination were held around Kazakhstan on July 6, Vlast.kz reported.
A study published by the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in June found official media reports about coronavirus one-sided and incurious. Surveying articles in state-run Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, the authors find the paper living up to its Soviet-era reputation: It largely parodies government sources, while its "journalists are not taking the initiative and are not looking for independent experts." The authors suggested the paper get some English speakers and invite doctors to write.
The Health Ministry confirmed the presence of the feared delta variant, also known as the Indian strain, on June 21, TASS reported.
Kazakhstan will no longer try to purchase AstraZeneca’s vaccine, citing negative publicity, state media reported on June 4.
Infections have been rising rapidly again in June and hospitals are running out of spaces. Kyrgyzstan is expected to have the world’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate this summer, according to a June article in The Lancet. Kyrgyzstan’s health minister on June 29 ordered all medical workers to be vaccinated, Kloop.kg reported.
The head of the State Committee on National Security, the KGB successor agency, said on July 8 that while the vaccine is free now, it might be available only for payment in the fall. He urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
What's available: On July 11, 1.25 million doses of Sinopharm arrived from China after two months of discussions about how to get them into the country. 150,000 were humanitarian aid; Bishkek bought the rest. Sinopharm is cheaper than Russia's Sputnik V, the Health Minister said on July 16, adding that Chinese officials asked that the price not be disclosed.
- 226,560 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived on July 30 through COVAX, 24.kg reported.
- 25,000 doses of QazVac, humanitarian aid from Kazakhstan, arrived on July 28.
- Kyrgyzstan received 40,000 doses of AstraZeneca as a gift from Azerbaijan on July 17, the first shipment of the British drug. Distribution began on July 22.
- Another 80,000 doses of Sputnik V, purchased by the Health Ministry, arrived on June 17 after the country ran out of jabs two weeks before. The country received 40,000 doses of Sputnik V in April and May that were quickly distributed to people over age 65.
Vladimir Putin said on May 21 that Kyrgyzstan and Armenia may be able to produce the Sputnik V vaccine domestically, adding that Russia is the only country sharing such technology. Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov said he was eager to collaborate. Nothing public has been said since.
Kyrgyzstan dropped age restrictions for receiving Sputnik V, 24.kg reported on June 25, though doses can be hard to find.
Kyrgyzstan has approved the Sputnik Light vaccine, which is a single dose of Sputnik V rather than the usual two, Akipress reported on June 25.
A shipment of 420,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shot has been chronically delayed.
Turkey's health minister said the country would conduct third-stage clinical trials of its Turcovac in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Hungary, 24.kg reported on June 24.
How's it going: The rate of vaccination picked up in mid-July after the Sinopharm doses arrived. The government on June 24 said it was investigating construction of two liquid oxygen plants.
A government website has begun issuing vaccination certificates, Kloop.kg reported on June 28, but it requires a cloud-based electronic signature that can only be set-up by visiting a government office.
The state-backed Muslim Ulema Council issued a fatwa on July 15 stating that vaccination does not contradict Islamic principles and stating that it is "not against vaccination."
Mandate: Bishkek has ordered all government employees get vaccinated, Kloop.kg reported on July 16. A few weeks earlier, Economy Minister Akylbek Zhaparov proposed withholding the salaries of civil servants who are unvaccinated.
- 24.kg reported on July 19 that market traders in a Bishkek suburb were being forced by management to produce a vaccine passport.
Kyrgyzstan's controversial health minister:
- In April Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev and the president alarmed doctors by recommending coronavirus patients consume a brew made with a poisonous root, aconitum (or wolf's-bane). Within days, several people were admitted to hospital for poisoning. On May 31 Beishenaliyev told a parliamentary committee that clinical trials conducted with up to 400 people in Kyrgyzstan had shown aconitum improves immunity and clears phlegm from the lungs, Kloop.kg reported. He also said it can stop a stomach tumor from growing.
A few weeks later, on June 25, Beishenaliyev confirmed he had contracted coronavirus, but that he was feeling well after drinking his poisonous concoction. In different interviews, he could not keep straight how many Sinopharm shots he had had and suggested it was not creating antibodies.
After Beishenaliyev said on June 22 that Kazakhstan was ready to send 50,000 vials of its domestic QazVac jab (after saying he "thought about asking for 500,000 doses"), Kazakhstan’s deputy prime minister refuted the claim, saying June 24 that Kazakhstan will not have doses available for export for several months, at least.
The government on July 3 mandated vaccination for everyone over age 18. The virus is spreading quickly, though the country has struggled to procure and distribute enough shots for everyone. It's unclear how authorities will enforce the mandate.
The government's line: After months of insisting they had won the battle against COVID-19, authorities finally caved to reality on June 21, confirming the virus is again in the country. The Health Ministry had been refusing to recognize cases, instead calling them "tuberculosis" or "seasonal pneumonia." In late May, a doctor was even fired for reporting a case.
- On June 25, Tajikistan dropped to 18 years the age requirement for vaccination, Ozodi reported.
- The government does not regularly publish figures on the number of vaccinated people.
What's available: Vaccinations began on March 22 with 192,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India and received through the Covax program.
- 2 million doses of CoronaVac, humanitarian aid from China, arrived in Dushanbe on July 28.
- 1.5 million doses of Moderna, humanitarian aid from the U.S., arrived on July 26.
- Tajikistan received 40,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Azerbaijan on July 20, Azerbaijani media reported.
- State news agency Khovar on June 20 reported that China had delivered 300,000 doses of its Sinovac vaccine as humanitarian aid. The doses have been earmarked for people over age 60. Tajikistan is negotiating for another 3 million doses of Sinovac, Ozodi reported on July 15.
The Asian Development Bank will grant Tajikistan $25 million to procure 3 million doses and related supplies, the bank said on June 16.
Tajikistan asked in April for Sputnik V shots; so far, no luck.
How's it going: The government says little and few trust the official statistics. But the way the virus is sweeping through President Emomali Rahmon's family suggests no one is being spared. More than 10 of his close relatives have been hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms in recent weeks, Radio Ozodi reported on July 21; his sister died the day before.
The government insists the country has never registered a single case of coronavirus. Yet it mandated that all adults over age 18 be vaccinated, reported the state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan on July 7. The report claims the country has a “necessary stockpile” of vaccines, but did not elaborate.
- Azatlyk's correspondents in Ashgabat on June 25 reported surging cases of what the authorities describe as "pneumonia," with overcrowded hospitals and increasing restrictions.
What's reportedly available: The president instructed the Health Ministry to purchase 1.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, state media reported on June 28.
- Turkmenistan has received a “large” shipment of Sinovac shots, state media reported on May 10. It is unclear how many doses the shipment included, how they will be used, or if the state has approved the drug.
- RFE/RL has reported that the Russian-made Sputnik V shot is available for purchase; a full regimen costs approximately $285 at the official exchange rate.
- Russia is helping supply Sputnik V, RIA Novosti quoted the ambassador as saying on June 11. But he added that "right now the demand significantly exceeds supply."
How it's going:
- For a deep dive into the regime's lies and a chronology on how the virus has spread in Turkmenistan, read this June report by Amsterdam-based website Turkmen.news.
The government mandated vaccination for workers who interact with the public, as well as military personnel and government officials. "Compulsory vaccination against coronavirus has recently been widely introduced throughout the world," the July 17 Health Ministry announcement said. In the last days of July, the both houses of parliament approved a new law allowing someone to be fired for refusing vaccination.
Hospitals are running out of space as the Delta variant becomes the most common in Uzbekistan. The country has broken infection records repeatedly in July, though the government has consistently underreported infections and deaths throughout the crisis.
Help from China: 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. 7.5 million doses had arrived as of July 20.
- Trust appears low: A survey conducted in late March on the Telegram instant messaging app found 44 percent of respondents would refuse vaccination. 34 percent said they would accept a Sputnik V jab and only 8 percent trusted the Anhui Zhifei Longcom shot.
What else is available: Three million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived on July 30, a gift from the United States.
- Another 140,000 doses of Sputnik arrived in June and 90,000 more on July 15.
- 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca arrived on July 16, a gift from Azerbaijan.
- Authorities expect a second shipment of 660,000 AstraZeneca doses in August, RIA Novosti reported on June 14.
- The Ministry of Innovation says it met on July 24 with Anhui Zhifei Longcom and discussed manufacturing the vaccine inside Uzbekistan "soon."
- On July 29, authorities said they would begin producing Sputnik V in August at Jurabek Laboratories in Tashkent. Raw materials will be shipped from Russia.
- Sputnik costs about twice as much per dose, Gazeta.uz reported on July 29.
Who's eligible: People over the age of 50 and university professors became eligible on June 22. Previously, in addition to people over age 65, writers, journalists and students studying abroad were able to get a shot.
- Supermarkets began offering shots on June 27.
How it's going: Since the start of the pandemic, police have recorded almost 1.2 million violations and issued over 1 million fines, Gazeta.uz reported on July 27.
- The official Muslim Spiritual Board instructed the faithful on July 14 to get vaccinated, saying the vaccine is a blessing from God.
- The government introduced new restrictions on accessing the capital from June 28 to July 12. Hours before the went into effect, Ozodlik reported, traffic jams many kilometers long were encircling the city.
- Most public events have been canceled under a July 5 Health Ministry order; sporting events can proceed without spectators.
Cases across the region:
For several months during the initial outbreak, we chronicled daily news from across our coverage region. See our previous coronavirus dashboards here.