Armenia to be supplied with 100,000 doses of new vaccine against COVID-19 in early May – minister’s interview
YEREVAN, APRIL 27, ARMENPRESS. Armenia considers obtaining all those vaccines against coronavirus (COVID-19) which meet the standards and have got the necessary patent: price is not the only criterion by which the choice is made, Minister of Healthcare of Armenia Anahit Avanesyan said in an interview to ARMENPRESS, noting that the vaccine is a necessity, not a luxury.
-Mrs. Minister, during your recent press conference you mentioned about the Sinovac company’s CoronaVac vaccine expected to be delivered by China as a donation. When will the first batch be delivered to Armenia and in how much doses? What will be the age threshold for getting this vaccine? And also there was a talk about the American Novavax vaccine. When will this one be supplied to Armenia?
-It will be in Armenia in the first week of May, with 100,000 doses, which is for 50,000 people. As for the arrival of Novavax, there are no concrete agreements yet, however, we have a preliminary agreement. We will specify the dates and the doses over the course of the time.
-In the Parliament you considered possible that up to 20% of the population will be vaccinated within a year. Why 20%? Because you will manage to acquire so much vaccine or you think that the number of people wishing to be vaccinated will not be so much?
-All countries choose priorities and set the whole vaccination bar for the people at risk, but of course, it also depends on how many people apply for it, it depends also on the availability of vaccine, because we cannot say what will be the epidemiological situation in other countries, for instance, in Greece, the situation is very serious at this moment. Therefore, it’s very difficult to make predictions over the distribution of overall vaccines. And we believe that we will have the sufficient threshold of public immunity as a result of the vaccinations of 600-700 thousand citizens as I said. Of course, the vaccinations will continue, but we will already have a sufficient threshold for living more calmly.
-The expiry date of AstraZeneca is in late-May. Will we manage to use all the doses before it expires? If not, what should be done with that vaccines? Is there a possibility to replace them with new vaccines?
-All vaccines have quite a short expiry date, almost all of them are for use up to 6 months. Starting from production up to reaching the final consumer, 1-3 months are the sufficient period for which the countries are able to get the vaccine. We are making huge efforts for the system to be fully ready to conduct the vaccination process. We also carry out information campaigns, try to present to the public the importance of positive results of vaccinations and that the vaccine is really a life-saving mean. We have high hopes and feel that citizens’ activeness is increasing. Although it’s not in that much than we expected, because, unfortunately, there is a major anti-propaganda and attempt is made to politicize this issue, which is not right. But Armenia is not the only country facing this problem.
We do not have an opportunity to exchange with the new batch. And in this case making any prediction is just impossible. We have a bar, and as an authorized body we have taken commitment to provide as much citizens as possible with the vaccine, but this process is on voluntary basis.
-Will Armenia get another batch of AstraZeneca after its expiry date?
-This is the first dose, and of course, those people, who are being vaccinated, must get also the second dose. And we must also obtain the second dose in order to ensure the process.
-When the world started producing vaccines, Armenia had great hopes with our compatriot Noubar Afeyan’s Moderna vaccine. But at this moment we do not have this vaccine, it is more expensive. Are there any plans for acquiring this vaccine?
-It is not only expensive, but its storage conditions are absolutely different. Of course, not only we have to pay for the vaccine, but also our entire immunization infrastructure should change in order to be able to ensure. Of course, we are in constant touch and are trying to consider, see and assess the ongoing offers of Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccines. But, vaccine is a necessity, not a luxury. Therefore, if there is a drug which solves the problem, and we have it, we must do what we have because it is in full accordance with our goal and gives the solution. And it’s very good that it is available in Armenia now.
-There is also an issue of trust among the Armenian society. Many people think that if something is expensive, than it is good. In the case of vaccines, isn’t there price-quality link?
-Vaccines are passing through very strict control mechanisms until they reach the citizen. The vaccines, which passed all the stages and get the patent, have sufficient necessary qualitative standards, are safe and efficient. All these three important standards are fully ensured. Therefore, the vaccines which we get at this moment belong to different price categories, and price is not the only one criterion by which we select them.
-Will the ministry propose to toughen the requirements for wearing face masks?
-I have repeatedly stated it and also in the inter-agency commissions I have always voiced this key message. Wearing face masks must continue especially in closed areas.
-Snap parliamentary elections will soon be held in Armenia. And accordingly, a pre-election campaign is expected. Do you see risks in drastic increase of coronavirus cases during this period? How do you imagine the election organization process in polling stations? Will there be concrete demands?
-Yes, the organization of electoral processes are being discussed so that the risks will be minimized as much as possible. The increase in new cases will depend on our behavior. If we wear face masks, if the vaccination process continues actively, the further increase in new cases will not take place. If you are from a risky group, go and get vaccinated in order to prevent, protect your health and life. And to all those, who are not from a risky group, wearing a face mask is the best measure that protects.
-Does the production of Armenian tests continue? Are they being used?
-The process of producing Armenian tests has been organized by the Institute of Molecular Biology thanks to our and the government’s support. And that time we had a strictly necessary product, but the Institute is a scientific center, and after getting the product, it later has made several proposals to the manufacturing companies so that they take that product and ensure its further production. At the moment I don’t have information whether our producers have found markets for consumption, as Armenia’s market only is not enough. But I am sure that this example gave a very good result which the private productions should take and continue.
Full version of the interview is available in Armenian.
Interview by Anna Grigoryan
Editing and Translating by Aneta Harutyunyan
Photos by Tatev Duryan