Vaccinating Eurasia – August
Vaccine uptake, the latest case surges, and related news from Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Updated every weekday.
Published by Eurasianet
Aug 4, 2021
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 thus 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, though the first batches must undergo tests before being distributed and as of early August, it is unclear when these tests will be completed. Between May and July, 89,000 doses of Sputnik V were imported from Russia.
- 50,000 AstraZeneca doses arrived through the international Covax program on May 17; another 50,400 arrived on August 3.
- Clinics in Yerevan began offering the Sinovac jab on May 24. 100,000 doses were reportedly shipped from China, state media reported on April 30.
How’s it going:
- Armenia’s vaccine distribution is the slowest in the region.
- Of 30 samples analyzed, Delta accounted for 25, the Health Ministry said on August 2.
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 in April 4, the Health Ministry said.
- 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.
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.
- 29,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, also through Covax, arrived on March 25; another 28,000, purchased by Tbilisi, arrived on July 14. They became available on July 16.
How it’s going:
- Some 45 percent of Georgians will decline to be vaccinated, according to a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute and released on August 2.
- 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.
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. The Karaganda pharmaceutical plant has supplied 5 million doses of Sputnik V as of August 2, and has agreed to make 2 million more, Vlast.kz reported.
- 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.
- 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.
Infections rose again rapidly in July, but the rate slowed by the end of the month. Kyrgyzstan is expected to have the world’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate this summer, according to a June article in The Lancet.
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.
- 1.25 million doses of Sinopharm, purchased by the Kyrgyz government, arrived on August 1.
- 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.
- 120,000 doses of Sputnik V arrived from Russia between April and June.
- 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.
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 reportedon July 16.
- 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.
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 government rarely publishes 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.
- Tajikistan asked in April for Sputnik V shots; so far, no luck, though Asia-Plus reports that authorities have taken receipt of 3,000 doses for government officials.
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.
What’s reportedly available:
- 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.
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. On August 3, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a law allowing an employee to be fired for refusing vaccination.
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.
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.
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.
For several months during the initial outbreak, we chronicled daily news from across our coverage region. See our previous coronavirus dashboards here.