Armenia has received its first batch of 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine under the UN-backed COVAX facility as the country braces for a third wave of infections from the virus.
The AstraZeneca shot, which has been authorized in more than 70 countries, is a pillar of the COVAX scheme, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) with the aim of providing 2 billion vaccine doses for low-income countries by the end of this year.
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The Armenian Health Ministry said it will use the first tranche of doses, which arrived by plane on March 28, to inoculate medical workers, nursing home employees, persons aged 65 and older, as well as the chronically ill.
The vaccine is used widely in Britain, Europe, and in other countries, but its rollout was marred by initial questions about its effectiveness.
Several European countries this month suspended using the vaccine over concerns it could cause blood clots, but they since resumed administering it after the EU’s drug regulator and the WHO confirmed the vaccine was safe.
The British-Swedish company has said its vaccine is “highly effective in adults," with 76 percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in a U.S. trial. More importantly, the vaccine was 100 percent effective against severe or critical disease and hospitalization.
"The vaccine is quite effective in preventing serious cases, almost 100 percent of hospitalizations and deaths," said Gayane Sahakian, the deputy director of Armenia’s National Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Armenia already started a vaccination drive with a limited supply of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine.
The number of COVID-19 infections recorded by Armenian health authorities has surged over the past month after falling significantly since November 2020. The resurgence of the virus has forced the authorities to set up hundreds of new hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 190,000 recorded coronavirus infections in Armenia and more than 3,400 related deaths, according to a tally run by Johns Hopkins University.