Moscow: President Vladimir Putin told fellow world leaders last week that both of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccines, including one he championed as the world’s first inoculation against the disease, are safe and effective. That doesn’t mean he’s taken a jab.
“We have not yet begun widespread vaccination and the head of state can’t take part in vaccination as a volunteer. It’s impossible,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday, in response to a question on whether Putin had been inoculated. “The president can’t use an uncertified vaccine.”
Developers of Russia’s flagship vaccine, Sputnik V, said Tuesday that initial testing showed it was 91.4% effective in preventing infections, although it has not yet published final results in a peer-reviewed journal. Among volunteers who started the vaccination process earlier, preliminary data indicated efficacy of over 95%, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
Russia has the world’s fifth-highest number of cases globally, passing 2 million last week. Putin announced the registration of Sputnik V in August and a second inoculation was approved in October, even as Phase 3 trials to establish safety and efficacy are still taking place.
Russia has already begun vaccinating medical workers, teachers and officials. By the end of the year, producers aim to make about 2.9 million doses, according to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.
Putin, 68, is in a higher risk category because of his age. The first group of volunteers aged 60 and over began vaccine trials on Oct. 28, state-run Tass news service reported last month, citing the doctor who is running the tests.
Sputnik V will cost less than $20 in international markets for a two-shot course of treatment, making it cheaper than foreign competitors produced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., the RDIF said Tuesday.
The interim results and the low price show that “RDIF made the right bet” Chief Executive Officer Kirill Dmitriev said in an interview. The fund studied more than two dozen vaccine efforts in Russia and chose state-run Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology and its human adenovirus-based technology because it had been used for years for other illnesses, Dmitriev said.
International deliveries will start in January and Russia plans to produce doses for 500 million people abroad in 2021, according to an RDIF statement. Russia plans to provide the vaccine free to its own citizens. – Bloomberg