On October 4, the Minister of Health and Social Development, Alymkadyr Beishenaliev, said on Birinchi Radio that 28% of the country’s population had been fully vaccinated, and 38% of people in Kyrgyzstan received their first dose.

At the same time, the official admitted that the vaccination rate in the country had decreased since mid-August.

We are here to tell you what Beishenaliev left out and to give you the general idea of how the late mass vaccination campaign is going in Kyrgyzstan.

Photo: Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev. Screenshot: Birinchi Radio

What is wrong with what Beishenaliev said?

According to the Republican Headquarters, as of October 5, over 635,000 people had received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kyrgyzstan. That’s almost 10% of the country’s 6.6 million population.

In total, Kyrgyz authorities want to vaccinate 3.4 million Kyrgyz under the National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

«To form collective immunity, at least 70% of the citizens included in the target group, which is 2.4 million people, must be vaccinated,» the Republican headquarters reported on August 5.

By referring to the fully vaccinated 28% of Kyrgyz people, Beishenaliyev may not have meant the entire population of the country, but precisely those 2.4 million people whom the authorities want to vaccinate to achieve collective immunity.

But even so, we don’t get 28% — more than 635,000 Kyrgyz vaccinated out of 2.4 million people is only 26.5%.

As of October 5, more than 839,000 Kyrgyz citizens — nearly 13% of the total population — had received their first vaccine dose.

Vaccination rates have dropped

In early June, Beishenaliyev said that the authorities planned to fully vaccinate 1 million Kyrgyz by September, 2021. However, the authorities have not been able to achieve this goal.

In mid-August, the WHO country office in Kyrgyzstan informed that the vaccination rates in Kyrgyzstan had declined.

«This is very unfortunate. The WHO’s goal is to vaccinate at least 10% of each country’s population by September, at least 40% by the end of the year, and 70% by the middle of next year. These are the most important milestones we must reach together to end the pandemic,» said Nazira Artykova, head of the WHO office in Kyrgyzstan.

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have also acknowledged that vaccination rates have been declining since mid-August. According to the Health Minister, Alymkadyr Beishenaliev, before the fall period, 15-20 thousand people received vaccines daily, compared to only 1-2 thousand at present. He spoke about this on Birinchi Radio on October 4.

The data show that Kyrgyz people were being actively vaccinated from July 14 until early August. Then the number of those who received the first dose became smaller than the number of those who received the second dose of the vaccine.

Late mass vaccination

Despite the fact that the vaccination campaign for Kyrgyz citizens began on March 29, its active phase did not begin until July 11. Before that, there were simply no vaccines available in the country.

Photo: On July 11 a special plane delivered 1,250,000 vaccine doses from China. Photo / Cabinet of Ministers Press Service

The authorities, represented by the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Health, have repeatedly set deadlines for delivering vaccines to the country, but they have been repeatedly postponed for various reasons: starting from problems with air travel between countries to a lack of airplanes.

Parliament criticized the head of the Ministry of Health, Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev, and the Republican headquarters in their combat against COVID-19 because of the low coverage of the population with vaccines.

“The fault and negligence is that of one minister. The heads of the headquarters are also to blame. You are lying; the vaccine could have been purchased earlier. In neighboring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, 6-7 million people have already been vaccinated. You are doing a bad job, and the minister is responsible for people’s deaths. He keeps talking about aconite. He showed up to work while he was sick. He is such an unscrupulous person. He misled everyone with aconite”, indignantly said the deputy speaker, Aida Kasymaliyeva, at the meeting on June 30.

On the same day, the Cabinet of Ministers announced that they had agreed to purchase 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccines against COVID-19 from China. Prior to that, the country only had vaccines provided by Russia and China as part of humanitarian aid.

On July 11, 1,250,000 doses of the vaccine from China were delivered to the country, 150,000 of which Kyrgyzstan received as humanitarian aid. On the next day, authorities announced the start of mass vaccination, promising to open around 900 vaccination centers across the country

Photo: Vaccination point in one of the shopping centers in Bishkek. Photo / Official website of Bishkek City Hall

It is now possible to get vaccinated with the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac (CoronaVac), and with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in Kyrgyzstan. Vaccination with the English-Swedish AstraZeneca has been suspended in the country due to the expiration of the vaccines.

The country also received the Kazakh vaccine QazVac as humanitarian aid. It was even registered, but they have not yet begun to vaccinate the citizens with it.

According to the Ministry of Health’s portal, the country has more than 1.5 million doses of the vaccines.

How the authorities are trying to accelerate the pace of vaccination

Even before the mass vaccination started, the Ministry of Health required all health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Later, on July 15, authorities introduced compulsory vaccination for state and municipal employees in order to increase vaccination coverage.

«We need to step up the pace of vaccination. Regional envoys of the president and city mayors need to take personal control over the vaccination of the population. It is necessary to inform and educate citizens about the importance of vaccination,» said Jyldyz Bakashova, head of the Republican headquarters.

On August 26, the Cabinet of Ministers announced that a 10-day campaign urging people to be vaccinated against coronavirus would be held across the country from September 1 to 10.

Photo: Vaccination campaign in Bishkek on September 8. Photo / Facebook page of the Bishkek mayor’s office.

On July 18, the Ombudsman Institute reported that there were cases of citizens being forced to get vaccinated, stemming from fears of being fired or having their salaries reduced. Then, human rights activists called on the heads of all state and municipal institutions to ask them to refrain from forcing their employees to be vaccinated.

They also recommended that the Ministry of Health conduct an active explanatory campaign among citizens, so that “Kyrgyz people go for vaccination voluntarily, not by force”.

On July 23, President Sadyr Japarov received the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 and pointed out that vaccination in the country remains voluntary and “no one has the right to force anyone to be immunized”.

After that, the Head of State urged Kyrgyz citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 several times. And on October 3, Japarov wrote a Facebook post where he rebuked individual citizens for not wanting to be vaccinated, even with the free vaccines that the state gives them.

«In some countries vaccination is paid for. And we have people who don’t want to be vaccinated for free. If we stop the coronavirus as soon as possible, then the countries will open their borders. Of course, then the rise in prices would stop,» the president assured.

Authorities’ further plans and the fourth wave of COVID-19

On August 17, Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev, the head of the Ministry of Health, stated that the authorities intend to vaccinate 70% of citizens by January 1, 2022. In his opinion, if Kyrgyzstan reaches these figures, it will help avoid the fourth wave of COVID-19.

Already on October 4, Beishenaliev said that the fourth wave of COVID-19 is expected after the elections in Jogorku Kenesh, which are scheduled for November 28, 2021.

At the same time, according to the minister, the health care system withstood the third wave of coronavirus in Kyrgyzstan very successfully — compared to previous waves, there were 10 times fewer deaths.

«If citizens get vaccinated more actively, I think we will pass through the fourth wave even better,» said Beishenaliev.

Translated by Liudmila Petrova from Respond Crisis Translation