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Azerbaijan's Coronavirus Vaccine Campaign Begins

By Nargiz Mammadli January 18, 2021

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Azerbaijan's Healthcare Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev gets vaccinated with the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. / Healthcare Ministry of Azerbaijan

The vaccination of the population in Azerbaijan started on Monday after the country officially joined the global inoculation campaign already launched in more than 40 countries. The country’s prime minister confirmed last week the national anti-COVID-19 vaccination strategy covering the period of 2021-2022.

Inoculation in Azerbaijan is voluntary and government-sponsored. People who get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the country will receive a confirmation document, a “vaccine passport”. The first group to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus includes healthcare workers because they are at high risk of contracting the infection. Their vaccination will proceed for approximately 2 weeks and will be followed by the inoculation of the residents aged 65 and above from February 1.

Azerbaijan Healthcare Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev, his deputies, and top officials from the Management Union of Medical Territorial Units (TABIB) have become the first to receive the vaccine on January 18.

The country’s authorities opted for the CoronaVac vaccine manufactured by the Chinese Sinovac company, with an order placed for 4 million doses. Shahmar Movsumov, an assistant to Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, said last week that the ordered amount was considered for two million people since every single person should get a vaccine twice. A further 2 million vaccine doses from various producers are expected to reach Azerbaijan via the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

“At the same time, two million doses of vaccine for one million people – which covers 10 percent of the population – will be received as part of the COVAX multilateral platform. We also have an opportunity to receive an additional 10 percent, that is, to increase this figure to 20 percent and get vaccines for two million people,” Movsumov said as part of a press briefing.

An official at the Healthcare Ministry of Azerbaijan, Teymur Musayev said vaccines are first transferred to Turkey, undergo certain laboratory checks there, and then transported to Azerbaijan. According to him, Chinese-made CoronaVac has a 91.25 percent efficacy rate.

Previously, Yagut Garayeva, who is a representative of TABIB, said the safety and effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine are key criteria set by the Azerbaijani government.

As of January 18, the overall number of people infected with COVID-19 in Azerbaijan stood at 227,391. Recovery and fatality rates stood at 215,771 and 3,022 respectively. More than 2.3 million 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.

The global COVID-19 statistics include 95.9 million cases and 2.04 million deaths. The United States registered the largest number of infections (24.5 million) and deaths (408,000).