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A plane carrying 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, marketed under the name Covishield and manufactured by the Serum Institute in India, landed at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport today.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has been criticized for failing to receive vaccines for Ukraine, which suffers from an aging health system. He has attributed the delay to the richer western countries who have reserved the Pfizer and Moderna batches in bulk and urged the EU to help eastern European countries get vaccines.
The country of 40 million people is one of the poorest in Europe and one of the last in the region to start vaccinating its population.
The government originally announced that it would start its vaccination campaign in mid-February, but the first doses of vaccine were delayed. Ukraine is also awaiting delivery of eight million doses, which were pledged under the World Health Organization’s Covax program.
Kiev claims it has received 17 million doses of vaccines developed by Novavax and AstraZeneca, including the 500,000 that arrived today. It has also signed a contract to receive 1.9 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.
Runaway regions in the east, which are controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists, began a vaccination campaign with the Russian Sputnik V jab in early February. Ukraine earlier this month banned vaccines developed by “aggressor states,” a term Kiev has been using for Russia since 2015.
Ukraine has recorded over 1.3 million cases and more than 25,000 deaths from the virus.