Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev threatened to dismiss his government unless ministers urgently remedy a slow-moving vaccination anti-COVID campaign.
According to official statistics, 137,000 people have received an initial dose of vaccine. Another 47,000 have gotten both doses of double-d0se vaccines. Kazakh authorities had earlier pledged to inoculate a quarter of a million people during February and March.
This in a sparsely populated country of 18.7 million, having among the highest standards of ;living among post-Soviet states.
“Two months have passed and less than two percent of the population has been vaccinated,” the president’s press service said he told ministers. “Delays are not an abstract problem, but a matter of national importance. We are talking here about national security, more illness and death rates, our citizens.”
Tokayev said he had been put in a position of having to “reach deals with other heads of state to secure additional supplies of vaccines. We are having to agree to unfavourable commercial and financial terms to speed up these supplies”.
Health Minister Alexei Tsoi, he said, had been given special authority to deal with the campaign.
“You started your work well. But then things slowed down. Though April, you must reverse the situation. Otherwise, there will be changes in our cabinet composition and you will be sorely disappointed. And that concerns not just the health minister but the entire government.”
Kazakhstan has relied on the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and a new shipment of 2.5 million doses is expected soon.
A similar vaccine is being produced under licence in the Kazakh city of Karaganda. And clinical trials of a Kazakh-made vaccine, QazVac are to be completed in July. with plans to produce 500,000 doses a month.