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Ukraine Faces COVID-19 Vaccine Delays Amid Record Numbers Of Hospitalizations

Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Kyiv on March 2.
Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Kyiv on March 2.

A record number of COVID-19 patients were taken to hospitals in Ukraine over the past 24 hours amid warnings from officials that there may be delays in the delivery of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on March 3 that 3,486 people were hospitalized over the past day -- the highest number since the epidemic hit the country.

Stepanov said 7,235 new cases were registered over the past 24 hours with 185 deaths. Health authorities have reported more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases and over 26,000 deaths to date.

Speaking on television late on March 2, the minister said that shipments of the Sinovac vaccine would likely be delayed and warned that "dirty information attacks" on his ministry's work were hampering negotiations with other vaccine suppliers.

Stepanov said the Chinese vaccine had been due to arrive in the next few days, but he added: "I gave an order to clarify the situation with the counterparty, but something tells me that there may be a postponement."

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau has opened an investigation into the signing of a contract with a local intermediary to procure Sinovac vaccines that activists claim was too expensive.

Stepanov has denied any wrongdoing.

Ukraine started vaccinating its population after receiving 500,000 doses of the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca last month. It has been prioritizing health-care workers and soldiers.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had a coronavirus vaccine shot on March 2 during a visit to eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014.

Based on reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service