France has pledged to provide 200,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to Armenia to support its government’s vaccination campaign that has made slow progress so far.

French President Emmanuel Macron promised the assistance late on Tuesday in a phone call with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol PashinYan. The latter thanked him for the decision.

“Armenians are going through many hardships,” Macron tweeted afterwards. “With friendship and solidarity, I tell them: France will always stand by your side.”

“In the face of the pandemic, France is ready to send 200,000 doses of vaccines to Yerevan. We will defeat the virus together,” he said.

The presidential Elysee Palace said on Wednesday that Macron made the pledge “in response to a request from Armenia.” It said the vaccines will be delivered in the coming weeks “as part of the Act-A initiative and in coordination with our European partners.”

The ACT-Accelerator program is a global plan to tackle the pandemic, including by providing vaccines to poorer countries through the COVAX Facility supported by the World Health Organization.

It is not yet clear whether Armenia will have to pay for the vaccines promised by the French president.

So far the Armenia has received almost 323,000 doses of vaccines that are enough to fully vaccinate an estimated 12 percent of its population. That includes 100,000 doses of the CoronaVac jab donated by China this spring and a similar amount of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine purchased by the Armenian government through COVAX.

The government said last week that it will spend 3.5 billion drams ($7.3 million) to buy 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinopharm vaccines.

The Armenian Ministry of Health said on Monday that a total of 172,000 vaccine shots have been administered in the country of about 3 million since the launch of the government’s immunization campaign in April. It said only 11,611 people have received the first dose of a vaccine over the past week.

The government has been encouraging Armenians to get vaccinated and is expected to take administrative measures for that purpose. In particular, public sector employees as well as workers of companies providing public services could soon be required to take regular coronavirus tests at their own expense in case of refusing vaccination.

The daily number of officially confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia has been relatively low since the beginning of June despite a continuing lax enforcement of anti-epidemic rules imposed last year.

A senior Ministry of Health official warned on Tuesday that the cases could skyrocket soon. She cited laboratory testing data suggesting that the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is becoming prevalent in Armenia as well.

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