Connect with us


Iranians Come To Armenia In Search Of Vaccines Amid A Increase In Demand

The need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Iran is becoming more urgent by the day.
A surge in new instances, spurred by the fast-spreading delta variety, has threatening to overburden Iranian hospitals with a flood of breathless patients.
But, as the death toll rises and it becomes clear that protection for the majority of Iranians is a long way off, thousands of desperate Iranians are fleeing to Armenia.
Authorities in the ex-Soviet Caucasus republic, whose vaccination uptake has remained sluggish due to widespread vaccine apprehension, have started handing out free shots to foreign visitors, a windfall for Iranians fearful for their lives and tired of waiting.
“I just want her to have the jab as shortly as possible,” said Ahmad Reza Bagheri, a 23-year-old jeweler at a bus stop in Tehran, nodding to his diabetic mother, whom he was accompanying on the tortuous 20-hour journey to Armenia’s capital, Yerevan Bagheri’s uncle had already had his first injection in the city and would soon receive his second.
As throngs of Iranians travel to Armenia by bus and plane, such stories have dominated Iranian social media in recent weeks.
Foreigners, including residents, accounted for up to half of the 110,000 persons who were vaccinated in Armenia, according to Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Armenia administers the Sputnik V vaccination from AstraZeneca Russia and the CoronaVac vaccine from China.
According to the scholarly publication Our World in Data, less than 2% of Iran’s 84 million people have got both doses, despite the country having the highest COVID-19 mortality toll in the Middle East.
Despite the fact that the sanctions-hit country has imported some Russian and Chinese vaccines, joined the United Nations-backed COVAX vaccine sharing program, and created three of its own vaccines, dosages are still in short supply.
Non-medical professionals and individuals under the age of 60 have yet to be vaccinated, although authorities have promised that mass vaccinations will begin in September.
“I can’t wait so long for immunization,” Ali Saeedi, a 39-year-old garment salesman who was also waiting to board the bus at a Tehran bus terminal, explained.
“Officials have repeatedly postponed public immunization programs.”
“I’m going to Armenia to make it happen,” says Bahareh Khanai, a 27-year-old secretary who sees the trip as a form of national service, simplifying the difficult inoculation work confronting Iranian authorities.
It’s unclear how many Iranians have traveled to Armenia to get vaccinated, given Armenia is also a popular summer vacation destination.
Hundreds of Iranians are ferried across the border each day by dozens of buses, taxis, and aircraft.
Three weekly flights from Iran to Yerevan have been added by airlines.
As many design plans, the cost of bus tours has increased.
Travel agents who have witnessed the pandemic’s devastation have seen an extraordinary uptick in business.
“In recent weeks, the number of our customers for the Armenia travel has increased,” said Ahmad, the manager of a Tehran tour firm who declined to disclose his last name for fear of retaliation.
According to the Iranian semiofficial ILNA news agency, a wave of Iranians has overwhelmed Armenia’s coronavirus testing stations, leaving hundreds stuck in the buffer zone, with several fainting from the heat.
Hundreds of Iranians queued for vaccine shots in Yerevan, around 160 kilometers (100 miles) away, with some sleeping on the streets to obtain a spot.
Hope keeps them going through the long queues in the scorching sun.
Iranians cavort to Persian music outside immunization centers in the Armenian capital, clapping as they receive injections, according to videos.
“We couldn’t have predicted that our humanitarian gesture would be so well received and propagated, and that we’d see such a large influx of foreigners,” Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan told reporters.
“Our countrymen are our priority,” says Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, “but the epidemic does not respect citizenship.” Nonetheless, the overwhelming number of Iranians flocking to vaccination centers has prompted Armenia to tighten the requirements.
Initially, Iranians seeking vaccines went to clinics in the southern border town of Meghri.
A local doctor, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t permitted to speak to the media, said at least 100 Iranians have been vaccinated there in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, beginning of last week, international travelers can only get vaccinated at five approved AstraZeneca mobile clinics in Yerevan, and must spend at least 10 days in Armenia before getting vaccinated, in an apparent attempt to enhance the country’s tourist sector.
Cross-border bus trips are becoming extended holidays, and some flights are now routed through Qatar, changing the profile of Iranian tourists.
The increased demand has also increased the cost, making the travel out of reach for everyone save the wealthy.
Ethicists, who previously claimed they wouldn’t mind needy foreigners obtaining extra vaccines scorned by residents, argue the price hike and additional 10-day minimum worsen the pandemic’s severe inequities.
“It raises the amount of money and time needed…
“As a result, there will be injustice in terms of who will be allowed to engage,” Alison Bateman-House, an assistant professor of medical ethics at New York University, said.
Vaccination holidays, like any travel in a period of contagious virus varieties, have “unintended consequences” and raise “the risk of disease transmission,” she added. A fairer alternative, she suggested, would be for Armenia to donate its excess doses to the international COVAX effort.
Nevertheless, for many in Iran, where scores of people are dying every day as a result of an outbreak that has depleted the country’s health system and economy, the cost of waiting has become too great.
A 48-year-old Tehran native, Mohammad Seifpour, coldly scanned the crowds of Iranians visiting the Yerevan immunization clinic.
“It’s just because of the terrible circumstances we’re in,” he explained.
Nasser Karimi of the Associated Press in Tehran, Iran, and Isabel DeBre of the Associated Press in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
___ Visit for all AP reports on the global pandemic.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Must See

More in News