BAKU, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Azerbaijan's senior health officials on Monday took their first inoculations of a vaccine made by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, marking the beginning of mass vaccination against COVID-19 in the country, according to state-run news agency AZERTAC.
Azerbaijani Health Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev and his deputies, as well as other health officials, were among the first to be vaccinated by what Shahmar Movsumov, an assistant to the president of Azerbaijan, earlier described as "the most safe and effective vaccine" procured by Azerbaijan.
Specialists decided that "the best vaccine for Azerbaijan is the vaccine of the Sinovac company" as it has passed clinical tests in many countries, said Shiraliyev, when addressing the local media after his inoculation in Baku.
The first stage of mass vaccination starting on Jan. 18 will cover health and technical workers at the country's medical institutions, law enforcement staff and servicemen, while people aged over 65 will be vaccinated starting from Feb. 1, according to health authorities.
Last week, Azerbaijan's Cabinet of Ministers approved the country's national COVID-19 vaccination strategy for 2021-2022, under which people who get the COVID-19 jab will receive a certificate to show they have been vaccinated.
Azerbaijan purchased 4 million doses of Sinovac vaccine, the first batch of which has been recently delivered to the country.
Although a strict special quarantine regime remains in effect throughout Azerbaijan until April 1, the authorities lifted major restrictions last weekend due to a drop in the number of infections in recent weeks.
According to the country's operational headquarters for COVID-19 prevention and control, Azerbaijan reported on Sunday 322 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 227,273.