Ukraine starting COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday

Ukraine is launching its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Wednesday, Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said.

"The COVID-19 vaccination campaign is starting today [on February 24]. The first vaccine [shipments] were sent to the regions at 7:00 a.m. I have set an objective to carry out the first stage of vaccination within a short period of time," Stepanov said at a press briefing in Kyiv on Wednesday.

Ukraine has enough vaccine doses for the first and second stages of the campaign, the minister said.

"We are expecting supplies through the COVAX initiative of more than 100,000 doses from the Pfizer company, around two million doses from Sinovac, 1.5 million doses from AstraZeneca, another four million doses or so from Serum Institute under COVAX, a contract for ten million doses from Novavax has already been signed, and we plan to sign a contract for another five million doses in the near future," Stepanov said.

This amount of vaccine doses is more than enough for a full-fledged vaccination drive this year, he said.

"Apart from that, we are going to sign more contracts and already have relevant agreements," Stepanov said.

Stepanov also said that he had visited the Bharat Biotech enterprise, which has developed a COVID-19 vaccine, during his visit to India.

"The vaccine has undergone the three phases of clinical trials, with the final stage involving more than 25,000 volunteers. The final results of the phase 3 trials are expected to become available within the next ten days. Scientists' tentative conclusions are optimistic - the vaccine is effective and safe," the minister said.

"During the negotiations with the company, we reached an agreement confirming the mutual readiness of the producer and Ukraine to take part in clinical trials of a new development, which is a vaccine in the form of nasal spray or drops. They are starting the phase 1 trials, while the phase 2 and phase 3 trials may be conducted partly in Ukraine. The clinical trials should be completed before September-October. Conducting such trials in Ukraine will give us priority access to the vaccine if its efficacy is proven," Stepanov said.

The State Expert Center of the Ukrainian Health Ministry, in turn, has announced that it finished reviewing the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines for the novel coronavirus on February 22.