Sumary of Desperate for vaccines amid surge, Iranians flock to Armenia:
- In the ex-Soviet Caucasus nation, where vaccine uptake has remained sluggish amid widespread vaccine hesitancy, authorities have been doling out free doses to foreign visitors — a boon for Iranians afraid for their lives and sick of waiting.“I just want her to get the jab as soon as possible,” said Ahmad Reza Bagheri, a 23-year-old jeweler at a bus stop in Tehran, gesturing to his diabetic mother who he was joining on the winding 20-hour road trip to Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.
- Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said last week that foreigners, including residents, have accounted for up to half of about 110,000 people who were vaccinated in the country.
- Armenia administers AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s CoronaVac vaccines.In Iran, which has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the Middle East, less than 2% of the country’s 84 million people have received both doses, according to the scientific publication Our World in Data.
- Although the sanctions-hit country has imported some Russian and Chinese vaccines, joined the U.N.-supported COVAX program for vaccine sharing and developed three of its own vaccines, doses remain scarce.
- Roughly 160 kilometers (100 miles) away in Yerevan, hundreds of Iranians lined up to get a vaccine shot, with some sleeping on the streets to secure a place.Hope sustains them through the long lines under an unforgiving sun.
- In the streets of the Armenian capital, Iranians cavort to Farsi music outside vaccine centers, clapping as they receive doses, videos show.“We couldn’t expect that our humanitarian act would become popular and spread so much and that we would have a big flow of foreigners,” Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan told reporters.