Azerbaijan to start COVID-19 inoculations with 4 million Sinovac shots

FILE PHOTO: Azeri law enforcement officers stand guard in a street as authorities tightened up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Baku, Azerbaijan April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan will begin vaccinating citizens against COVID-19 on Monday, using a batch of 4 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, the health ministry said on Saturday.

“Medical workers will be vaccinated first, and then over-65s from Feb. 1,” presidential aide Shahmar Movsumov added.

The doses will be transported first to Turkey, he said, where they will be checked and packaged, before arriving in batches to Azerbaijan.

A further 2 million vaccine doses from various producers are expected to reach Azerbaijan via the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme, the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries around the world against the coronavirus.

As of Saturday, the country of about 10 million people in the South Caucasus had registered 226,549 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 2,983 deaths.

Earlier on Saturday Baku’s government said it would extend most coronavirus lockdown restrictions until April but allow cafes and restaurants to open their doors to customers from Feb. 1.

Measures to stem the spread of the virus were introduced in late March and have been extended several times, with borders closed as the number of new cases keeps rising.

Shopping malls will stay closed and the metro service in the capital Baku will remain suspended.

Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Kirsten Donovan