Putin, Once a Holdout, Says He’ll Take Covid Vaccine Tuesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he plans to get vaccinated on Tuesday against Covid-19, more than three months after Russia started mass inoculations to protect the population from the pandemic.

“Today we can say with confidence, and experience indisputably confirms this, that Russian vaccines are absolutely reliable and safe,” Putin said Monday at a televised video-conference with officials and executives on boosting inoculation production. “Moreover, no other similar foreign medications demonstrate such a high degree of protection.”

He didn’t say which of the three Russian vaccines now available he will take. Sputnik V, the most well-known internationally, is the vaccination being used currently in the nationwide roll-out. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president would take one of the three Russian shots, state-run Tass news service reported.

Putin has touted Russia as a leader in the race to combat the pandemic, hailing Sputnik V as the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine cleared for use last August even as it hadn’t completed safety trials. While he announced the start of mass inoculation in December, on the same day as the U.K. became the first western country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Russians have been slow to vaccinate.

Putin said 6.3 million people in Russia have received a first inoculation to date, and 4.3 million of them have taken both shots. The U.K. has administered 29.9 million Covid vaccines so far. Putin set a goal of vaccinating nearly 70 million people to reach herd immunity, a target officials are aiming to reach this summer.

‘Pretty Good’

By apparent coincidence, Putin’s pledge to inoculate came shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden’s top infectious diseases adviser, Anthony Fauci, said Sputnik V “looks pretty good” from data he’s studied on the vaccine.

Putin, 68, late last year initially said he was waiting for coronavirus vaccines to be cleared for people in his age group. Still, even after regulators gave the go-ahead, his spokesman said last month that the president was concentrating on other inoculations in line with a medical schedule.

The Russian leader won’t make his inoculation into a public event, Peskov said.

Of the other two Russian vaccines, the shot produced by Vector, a former biological weapons research laboratory, is a mix of short amino-acid chains called peptides that induce an immune response, while Moscow’s Chumakov Federal Scientific Center has developed an inoculation based on the inactivated coronavirus.

Global Ambitions

Russia has enjoyed success in persuading more than 50 countries to approve Sputnik V, boosting its global ambitions, with several million doses already delivered to Latin America, the biggest demand so far.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which backed the vaccine’s development and is in charge of its international roll-out, has set out plans to ramp up overseas production to supply shots to almost one in ten people on the planet this year.

Russia has accused the U.S. of trying to sabotage its efforts, while the European Union’s internal markets commissioner, Thierry Breton, said the bloc doesn’t need Sputnik V, a comment that Putin criticized as “strange.” The European Medicines Agency has started a rolling review of Sputnik V, the first major step in gaining approval for use in the EU.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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