Kremlin Touts Putin Vaccination Example, But No Cameras
(Bloomberg) -- Russian authorities hope that President Vladimir Putin’s long-awaited decision to get his first dose of a Russian Covid-19 vaccine will help boost the country’s inoculation rate, which has fallen short of initial targets.
“We’re counting on the pace of vaccination accelerating,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call, noting that production is expected to pick up in the coming weeks.
Putin got the injection Tuesday and feels good, Peskov said in a text message later. “He has a full work day tomorrow,” he added.
Peskov declined to say which of the three approved Russian shots Putin received. No pictures will be made available, he said. “As for getting vaccinated on camera, he’s never been a fan of that,” Peskov said on the conference call.
The president’s reluctance to get the shots after he announced the start of a mass vaccination campaign in December has mirrored the approach of many Russians, who remain wary of the Sputnik V inoculation that Putin hailed as the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine cleared for use. Russia has since approved two more domestically developed vaccines.
While authorities hoped at the start of the year to provide a first shot to over 20 million people by the end of March, only 6.3 million, or 4.3% of the population, have started the process to date and Russia lags behind many other countries in its coverage rate. Putin told officials this week that they must vaccinate nearly 70 million people to reach herd immunity, a target they aim to reach this summer.
The Kremlin initially declined to say when or if Putin would get vaccinated after Sputnik V was approved in August, even as he lobbied other world leaders that it was safe and effective against Covid-19.
Putin, 68, then said late last year that he was waiting for coronavirus vaccines to be cleared for people in his age group. After regulators approved it for senior use, his spokesman said last month that the president was waiting because he had other vaccinations already scheduled.
Sputnik V, Russia’s most widely available vaccine, has been actively marketed abroad even amid the slow uptake at home. A peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet showed it to be highly effective against Covid-19 and more than 50 countries have approved its use.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which backed the vaccine’s development and handles its international roll-out, has set a target of increasing overseas output sufficiently to supply nearly one in ten people globally this year.
Russia’s other two approved vaccines, produced by former biological weapons laboratory Vector and Moscow’s Chumakov Federal Scientific Center, have not completed their Phase 3 safety trials.
New infections in Russia have fallen to below 10,000 cases a day from a peak of nearly 30,000 in late December. The decline combined with the authorities’ decision to avoid a lockdown during the second wave of the epidemic may have fostered a sense of complacency among some Russians about whether to vaccinate.
However, health officials have said South African and U.K. variants of the virus have been identified locally, spurring fears of a potential new spike in cases.
Russia has recorded more than 200,000 deaths related to Covid-19, the third most globally after the U.S. and Brazil.
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