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Abkhazia to begin long-delayed vaccine rollout

7 May 2021
A mobile COVID-19 hospital in Sukhumi. Official photo.

Abkhazia is to begin vaccination against COVID-19 with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine ‘after 9 May’, the Abkhazian Health Minister has announced

Abkhazia received 6,500 doses of Sputnik V, enough to vaccinate 3,250 people, on 30 April.

The vaccine rollout in Abkhazia has been delayed three times already. Initially, medical workers were due to receive their first jabs in January, however, the date was subsequently pushed back to February and then again to the beginning of March.

‘Currently there are 6,500 jabs stored in a warehouse under special conditions, as it should be according to the instructions’, Health Minister Tamaz Tsakhnakia said on Wednesday. The Sputnik V vaccine must be stored at a temperature of less than -18°C. 

According to Tsakhnakia, medical staff will be the first to receive the vaccine while state employees including teachers and police, as well as those working in the tourism sector will be next in line.  Vaccination will be free and voluntary.

Abkhazia currently plans to receive a total of 30,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. The date of the next deliveries will depend on how fast Abkhazia administers its current supply, Tsakhnakia added. 

‘If we manage to get at least 15,000 people vaccinated, it will be a good result and help to decrease the number of cases, as we have had only 14,000 cases of coronavirus registered in total during the pandemic’, he said.  

According to Tsakhnakia, Abkhazia has budgeted ₽50 million ($674,000) for the medical costs of combating the coronavirus in 2021, which could be used to purchase more vaccines. 

‘If we have to make a decision to buy vaccines, finding money and the ways to do it will not be a problem’, he said. 

Due to the vaccine’s required storage conditions, only one vaccination point, in Sukhum (Sukhumi), will operate during the first phase of the vaccination campaign. 

According to Ludmila Skorik, the chief sanitary officer of Abkhazia, a second vaccination point will later open in Gagra, a popular summer tourism destination.

‘The President of Abkhazia has set a goal of vaccinating all tourism professionals who will be serving tourists from the Russian Federation, that is why residents of Gagra District will receive shots in the second place’, Skorik said. 

Inga Peepia, a cardiologist from Sukhum told OC Media that Abkhazian health workers were generally positive about the upcoming vaccination campaign. She said that even those who had previously contracted COVID-19 were planning to be vaccinated. 

‘Many are afraid of the possible side effects. Some are convinced that it’s better to get COVID-19 and then develop antibodies than take a vaccine. But they just don’t understand how tricky this disease is. If one has even a small chance of getting vaccinated and then developing milder coronavirus symptoms if infected, it is silly not to take this chance’, she added.

The primary geographic terms used in this article are those of the author’s.  For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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