Vladimir Putin rolls out Russia's jab in 'large-scale' vaccination

Vladimir Putin rolls out Russia’s coronavirus jab with sailors, doctors and teachers among the first to get Sputnik V shot in ‘large-scale’ Covid vaccination

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to start mass vaccination against coronavirus
  • Doctors and teachers are among the first to get jab, with sailors in Severomorsk already given a shot 
  • Sputnik V is touted in Russia as the world’s ‘first registered Covid-19 vaccine’ after regulators approved it
  • Developers said the vaccine is 92% effective but the jab is yet to pass its crucial Phase 3 trials 

Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to start mass vaccination against coronavirus across Russia from next week, with sailors, doctors and teachers among the first to get the nation’s own jab.

Sputnik V has been touted in Russia as the world’s ‘first registered Covid-19 vaccine’ after it received regulatory approval in early August. However, giving the shots the government go-ahead drew considerable criticism from experts, because at the time they had only been tested on several dozen people. 

The Russian military said last week that 2,500 servicemen had been vaccinated with more to come by the end of the year, with sailors in Severomorsk photographed being given a shot of the vaccine.

Putin gave the order during an online meeting with ministers on Wednesday as Russia, which has the fourth highest number of recorded infections in the world, registered 589 new daily Covid-19 deaths. The Russian leader said his government will have produced two million vaccine doses within the next few days. 

Sputnik V, one of two Russian-made vaccines to have received domestic regulatory approval so far despite clinical trials being incomplete, requires two injections. A third vaccine is in also in the works.  

Developers of the vaccine said interim analysis of the trial data showed it was 91.4 per cent effective.  

The conclusion was based on 39 infections among 18,794 study participants that received both doses of either the vaccine or the placebo, which is a much lower number of infections than Western drugmakers looked at when assessing the effectiveness of their vaccines. 

The trial is still ongoing, but the vaccine is already being offered to people in risk groups – such as medical workers – despite expert warnings against its wider use before it completes all the necessary testing. Several high-profile officials have said they have already taken it too.      

Putin’s statement came just hours after Britain became the first country in the West to authorise the use of a coronavirus vaccine from US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. 

A Russian navy sailor gets a shot of a Russian COVID-19 vaccine in Severomorsk, Russia. The Russian navy this week started vaccinating crews against the coronavirus before they sail off on a mission

A Russian Northern Fleet serviceman gets the vaccine during COVID-19 vaccination aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the town of Severomorsk, as Vladimir Putin ordered a mass vaccination against coronavirus across Russia

Russian Northern Fleet serviceman has his body temperature measured before COVID-19 vaccination aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the town of Severomorsk

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the opening of multi-purpose medical centers of the Russian Defence Ministry via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

He told government officials: ‘This gives us the opportunity to start if not mass, but large-scale vaccination, of course, as we agreed, first of all of the two risk groups – doctors and teachers’, and tasked deputy PM Tatyana Golikova to ‘organise the work in such a way so that large-scale vaccination starts by the end of next week’. 

‘Let’s agree on this – you will not report to me next week, but you will start large-scale vaccination… Let’s get to work already,’ Putin told Golikova.’I understand that you’re using very careful language and it’s absolutely right that we are cautious. But I know that industry and the (health) network are in general ready.’  

The two-shot Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. An advanced study among 40,000 volunteers was announced two weeks after the vaccine received government approval.  

In a separate presentation to the UN about Sputnik V, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Russia has already vaccinated more than 100,000 high-risk people. According to the presentation, more than 45,000 people are currently participating in Sputnik V trials worldwide.  

Kirill Dmitriyev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the development of the jab, added that around 25,000 of them have been vaccinated ‘as part of a clinical trial now’.  

Dmitriyev said that outside of the trial, the vaccine was offered to ‘volunteers’ among medical workers ‘because we wanted to protect our front-line personnel first.’ He added that developers of the vaccine have already applied to the European Medicines Agency to get approval of the jab in Europe, as well as in other countries.

Medical workers carry out COVID-19 vaccination of the Russian Northern Fleet servicemen aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the town of Severomorsk

The Russian Gam-COVID-Vak (Sputnik V) vaccine for vaccination of the Russian Northern Fleet servicemen aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the town of Severomorsk

A Russian Northern Fleet serviceman gets the vaccine during COVID-19 vaccination aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the town of Severomorsk. Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Russia

The Russian Gam-COVID-Vak (Sputnik V) vaccine for vaccination of the Russian Northern Fleet servicemen aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the town of Severomorsk

‘We understand that it may take some time, but we concurrently, you know, have applied for approval in 40 different countries and we are working very closely with regulators in all of those countries,’ he said.

Dmitriyev said earlier this month that one billion doses of the vaccine are expected to be produced next year outside of Russia. But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said vaccinating Russians ‘will be the absolute priority.’

Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed Covid-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring.

On Wednesday, Russia registered a record high number of 589 new coronavirus deaths. The previous record of 569 deaths was registered on Tuesday. The government task force has recorded a total of 41,053 virus-related deaths since the start of the outbreak.

Authorities in St Petersburg, which reported 3,684 new infections on Wednesday, ordered bars and restaurants to close from December 30 until January 3, to combat the rise in cases there, the RIA news agency reported.

Museums, theatres and concert halls would be closed to the public in the city of more than 5 million people for the duration of Russia’s New Year holidays, from December 30 to January 10. In Moscow, a remote learning period for secondary school students was extended beyond December 6 to the end of the year.  

With 2,347,401 infections, Russia only has fewer Covid-19 cases than the United States, India and Brazil. It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

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