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Azerbaijan Reportedly Receives First Batch Of Covid-19 Vaccine

By Nargiz Mammadli January 14, 2021

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Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine plant in China's capital city of Beijing / CFP

The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines has arrived in Azerbaijan as the country joins global inoculation efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Sputnik Azerbaijan reports referred to a source in the Healthcare Ministry of Azerbaijan who named the vaccine purchased by the country as China's Sinovac SARS Cov-2 immunizer. The healthcare employees and residents aged 65 and above are the priority group of the country's population to receive the dose first.

Azerbaijan's Health Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev is expected to sign an order that will determine the start of the immunization drive in the coming days. President Ilham Aliyev said in December that vaccination in the country will be government-funded, voluntary and begin sometime in early January.

Meanwhile, authorities at the Public Association of Medical Territorial Units (TABIB) in Azerbaijan revealed earlier this week that all Covid-19 vaccine candidates were under consideration to facilitate the purchase of the best effective immune booster. TABIB's department chief Yagut Garayeva said the safety and effectiveness of a Covid-19 vaccine are key criteria set by the Azerbaijani government.

"If a vaccine has side effects, if it causes injuries, it is not discussed. The utmost criteria is the safety of a vaccine and the second is its effectiveness," Garayeva said in an interview posted on TABIB's official Facebook page on Monday. "If we inoculate a vaccine, we expect it to generate immunity."

China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine was revealed to be less effective than anticipated. Late-stage trials in Brazil show the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac to be 50.38% effective, nearly 30 percentage points below the initial results (78 percent) released last week. Turkey has also purchased Sinovac, while Indonesia gave green light to import the vaccine. Thailand will import 200,000 vaccines in February and the Philippines targets 25 million doses of Sinovac.

Covid-19 has infected a total of 226,200 people in Azerbaijan since its first case was confirmed on February 28, 2019. The fatality rate in the country stands at 2,971, while around 213,000 patients managed to defeat the virus. Over 2.2 million Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the country to date.

Covid-19 patients are treated in around 50 hospitals and clinics in Azerbaijan. More than 10 new hospitals with over 10,000 beds have been launched during the pandemic. Local doctors are assisted by the healthcare specialists invited from Turkey, Cuba, Italy, China, and Russia. The government allocated more than $2.5 billion from the state budget to help mitigate the negative outcomes of the pandemic on the people and businesses.

Before starting the vaccination, Azerbaijan joined COVAX, a campaign co-led by the vaccine alliance Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and WHO. It aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to ensure that every country in the world has fair and equitable access to immunization.

TABIB's Yagut Garayeva said GAVI is expected to deliver a certain dose of vaccines to Azerbaijan in April of this year. The brand name of these vaccines that will help immunize 10 percent of the country's ten million population is not currently known, according to her.

The ongoing global vaccination campaign is identified to be the largest of its kind in history. Over 30 million shots have been administered in 43 countries so far, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The US started the COVID-19 inoculation on December 14 as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine developed jointly by the German and American companies was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for the vaccination. The UK has also authorized the Tozinameran (INN), codenamed BNT162b2, and more commonly known as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for inoculation within its territory. The first shots of the vaccine were rolled out on December 8. The Pfizer-BioNTech was proved to be 95 percent effective in preventing Covid-19.

In the Caspian region, Russia has already started the vaccination with the locally produced Sputnik-V vaccine. Kazakhstani government plans to start the inoculation of the population with the same Sputnik-V vaccine sometime in February 2021, while holds simultaneous talks to buy Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, as well. The human trials of the domestically made COVIran Barekat vaccine kicked off in Iran in late December. In Turkmenistan, the government has developed a national plan for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines. In December, the country's officials revealed their interest in procuring the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.