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Coronavirus: Vladimir Putin rolls out Russian Sputnik V shot in ‘large-scale’ Covid vaccination

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to begin mass vaccination against the coronavirus starting next week, with sailors, doctors and teachers being the first to receive the country’s own injection.

Sputnik V has been touted in Russia as the world’s ‘first registered Covid-19 vaccine’ after being approved by regulatory agencies in early August. However, the government received a lot of criticism from experts when giving the shots, because they had only been tested on a few dozen people at the time.

The Russian army said last week that 2,500 soldiers had been vaccinated and that more would come by the end of the year, with sailors in Severomorsk photographed while receiving an injection of the vaccine.

Putin gave the order on Wednesday during an online meeting with ministers because 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 doses of vaccine in the coming days. Sputnik V, one of two Russian-made vaccines so far approved by national regulatory authorities, despite the clinical trials being incomplete, requires two injections. A third vaccine is also in the works.

The developers of the vaccine said interim analysis of the study data showed it to be 91.4 percent effective.

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

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

Putin’s statement came just hours after Britain became the first country in the West to approve the use of a coronavirus vaccine from American drug manufacturer Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

A Russian sailor receives an injection with a Russian COVID-19 vaccine in Severomorsk, Russia. The Russian Navy has started vaccinating crews against the corona virus this week before they leave for a mission

A Russian sailor receives an injection with a Russian COVID-19 vaccine in Severomorsk, Russia. The Russian Navy has started vaccinating crews against the corona virus this week before they leave for a mission

A Russian soldier from the Northern Fleet receives the vaccine during COVID-19 vaccination aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk, while Vladimir Putin ordered a mass vaccination against the coronavirus across Russia

A Russian soldier from the Northern Fleet receives the vaccine during the COVID-19 vaccination aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk, while Vladimir Putin ordered a massive vaccination against the coronavirus across Russia

A Russian soldier from the Northern Fleet receives the vaccine during COVID-19 vaccination aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk, while Vladimir Putin ordered a mass vaccination against the coronavirus across Russia

The body temperature of the Russian Northern Fleet is measured before the COVID-19 vaccination on board the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk

The body temperature of the Russian Northern Fleet is measured before the COVID-19 vaccination on board the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk

The body temperature of the Russian Northern Fleet is measured before the COVID-19 vaccination on board the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the opening of multi-functional medical centers of the Russian Ministry of Defense via video link in Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the opening of multi-functional medical centers of the Russian Ministry of Defense via video link in Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the opening of multi-functional medical centers of the Russian Ministry of Defense via video link in Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

He told government officials: ‘This gives us the opportunity to initiate, if not massive, but large-scale vaccination, of course, as we have agreed, primarily from the two at-risk groups – doctors and teachers’, and charged Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova to ‘organize the work so that large-scale vaccination starts at the end of next week’.

“Let’s agree on this – you’re not reporting to me next week, but you’re starting large-scale vaccination … Let’s get to work,” Putin told Golikova. ‘I understand that you use very careful language and that we are absolutely right. But I know that the industry and the (health) network are generally ready. ‘

The dual Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow. An advanced study of 40,000 volunteers was announced two weeks after the vaccine was approved by the government.

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

Kirill Dmitriyev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that funded the development of the shot, added that about 25,000 of them have been vaccinated “now as part of a clinical trial.”

Dmitriyev said the vaccine was offered out of trial to “volunteers” among medical staff “because we wanted to protect our frontline workers first.” He added that the developers of the vaccine have already filed with the European Medicines Agency to get approval for the shot in Europe, as well as in other countries.

Medical personnel perform COVID-19 vaccination of the Russian Northern Fleet soldiers aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk

Medical personnel perform COVID-19 vaccination of the Russian Northern Fleet soldiers aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk

Medical personnel perform COVID-19 vaccination of the Russian Northern Fleet soldiers aboard the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk

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

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

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

A Russian soldier from the Northern Fleet receives the vaccine during the COVID-19 vaccination on board the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk. Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Russia

A Russian soldier from the Northern Fleet receives the vaccine during the COVID-19 vaccination on board the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk. Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Russia

A Russian soldier from the Northern Fleet receives the vaccine during the COVID-19 vaccination on board the frigate Admiral Kasatonov in the city of Severomorsk. Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Russia

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

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

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

“We understand it may take time, but at the same time, you know, we applied for approval in 40 different countries and we are working very closely with regulators in all those countries,” he said.

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

Russia was inundated this fall with a rapid resurgence of the outbreak, with numbers of confirmed Covid-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly higher than those reported in the spring.

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

Authorities in St. Petersburg, who reported 3,684 new infections on Wednesday, ordered bars and restaurants to close from December 30 to January 3 to stem the increase in the number of cases there, the RIA news agency reported.

Museums, theaters and concert halls are said to be closed to the public in the city of more than 5 million people during the Russian New Year holiday, from December 30 to January 10. In Moscow, a remote learning period for high school students was extended from December 6 to the end of the year.

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

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