Kyrgyzstan kicks off vaccination


Kyrgyzstan on Monday kicked off its coronavirus vaccination campaign using China's Sinopharm jab, as the West accuses Beijing and Moscow of using their vaccines as tools to win geopolitical clout.

Russia and China both compete for economic and political influence in Central Asia, a majority Muslim former Soviet region, and also dominate the vaccine race there.

Beijing this month donated 150,000 doses of its two-shot jab to Kyrgyzstan, enough to vaccinate 75,000 people, or just over one percent of the 6.5 million population.

A medical worker holds a vial of of the Sinopharm vaccine against the coronavirus disease during medics vaccination in Bishkek on March 29, 2021.

Energy-rich Kazakhstan rolled out vaccinations last month using Russia's Sputnik V vaccine but intends to introduce a nationally-produced jab at a later stage.

In Kyrgyzstan, Health Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev had the first shot of the campaign in front of reporters, sporting a vest and a smile after filling out a form for the vaccination and consulting with a doctor. 

"I feel fine," Beishenaliyev said after the shot, while admitting his fear of injections. 

The health minister said that medics would be first in line for vaccinations, followed by teachers, border guards, at-risk groups and people over 65 years old.

Kyrgyzstan has also registered Russia's Sputnik, with Beishenaliyev saying that his country expected to receive up to half a million doses of that vaccine in May or June. 

The minister confirmed that Kyrgyzstan had suspended plans to secure doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via the Covax programme, after several European countries paused rollout of the shot over blood clotting concerns before later resuming its use.  

"When we learn that deaths and clotting are not a result of the vaccine, we can begin (with AstraZeneca)," Beishenaliyev said. 

Both the World Health Organization and the European Union's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, say the AstraZeneca jab is safe to use and has no proven link to blood clots

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