President Tokayev Promises Swift Clampdown on Fake Vaccination Passports, Demands Wider Choice of Vaccines

NUR-SULTAN – For the past few weeks, Kazakhstan has seen soaring coronavirus cases reporting more than 5,000 cases daily, the highest since the pandemic began. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting on Monday to discuss the current epidemiological situation in the country, reports the Akorda press service. 

Cases soared rapidly with the Delta variant reaching the country. Click to see the map in full size.

Speaking at a meeting that gathered the country’s senior officials, Tokayev noted that the number of infections has increased sharply, including the number of patients in serious condition.

Over the past day, Kazakhstan registered 5,179 coronavirus and 227 coronavirus pneumonia cases, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 504,290 and 58,883 coronavirus pneumonia cases. 54 people died from coronavirus within a day. 

Tokayev said that the task is to prevent the increasing number of patients in severe conditions. 

“That is why there is only one way out. This is mass vaccination. We must be frank, the situation is extremely alarming. The pandemic has become a kind of exam for regional authorities,” said Tokayev. 

As of July 21, nearly five million people have received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19, or 49 percent of the eligible population, while a little more than 2.9 million people were fully vaccinated. 

Tokayev and senior officials during the meeting. Photo credit: Akorda press service

He instructed the government to ensure that the regions that show low vaccination rates, including the Mangistau and Aktobe regions, have access to methodological assistance and develop a comprehensive approach to address the epidemic of people refusing vaccination. 

“There could be different reasons (for refusing vaccination). Many people are hesitating. It is necessary to convince them by all means necessary, including through the use of social networks,” he said. 

As vaccination became obligatory in organizations with more than 20 employees, the threat of fake vaccination passports and fake PCR tests is on the rise. 

The risks are growing worldwide after countries started to lift restrictions for people who can show proof of vaccination. The market of fake vaccination documents is booming, according to Reuters. 

In Kazakhstan alone, 65 criminal cases have been initiated. Tokayev said that the punishment must be tightened. 

“This is a very serious crime. This is, in fact, an offense aimed at undermining national security. I instruct the government to toughen and use severe punishment on those who allow the falsification of vaccination passports,” said Tokayev.

Greater choice of vaccines

The Kazakh leader also tasked the government to expand the choice of vaccines for the citizens. Currently, there are two available vaccines – Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and Kazakhstan’s own QazVac vaccine developed by Kazakh Biosafety Research Institute in the Zhambyl Region. 

While the planned industrial rollout of the domestic QazVac vaccine is scheduled for September, Tokayev told the government to consider the supply and production of Russia’s Sputnik Light at domestic pharmaceutical sites. 

The Sputnik Light vaccine is a single dose vaccine, also known as Gam-COVD-Vac. With a demonstrated 79.4 percent efficacy and easier transportation requirements, the vaccine is designed to help immunize larger groups of population amid a spike in coronavirus cases, according to the developers. 

Other non-communicable diseases rising

Tokayev said the healthcare system should be fully equipped to meet the needs not only of coronavirus patients, but also people diagnosed with other serious conditions. 

“I constantly speak about the declining availability of medical care. We see this in the increased maternal mortality, mortality from cardiovascular conditions and other diseases. While hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 patients, precious time is being lost for routine operations,” said Tokayev. 

Statistics show a grim picture, as the maternal mortality rate remains high. 57 women died in the first six months of 2021, and 54 died in the same period in 2020. Mortality from circulatory diseases increased by almost 30 percent.

Tokayev said that the risks of the growing number of tuberculosis infections are also high. 

Wrapping up the meeting, he urged the government to stay vigilant amid soaring cases and ensure the healthcare system is ready for any scenario. 

“The virus hurts our dearest. In this struggle, our older generation suffers, but very sadly, so do our children. It is hard to imagine, but one-year-old babies get seriously sick after being infected by their parents. Not long ago it was impossible, but now thousands of babies are affected by this dangerous virus. The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this deadly danger is through vaccination,” said Tokayev.

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