Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to start large-scale vaccinations against Covid-19 from next week, using the country’s own vaccine, Sputnik V.
On Wednesday Putin, speaking during a televised government meeting, said, “Over two million doses of the first registered vaccine against the coronavirus infection in the world, Sputnik V, will have been produced by the next few days. This allows us to begin a large-scale vaccination.”
The Russian leader said that the primary focus should be the “vaccination of the two risk groups of doctors and teachers”.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is responsible for the country’s coronavirus response said that she is looking at vaccinating larger groups. “Vaccinations will be voluntary and free of charge for citizens, starting next week, I hope,” she said.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that to date more than 100,000 Russian citizens have already been vaccinated with Sputnik V but did not say whether this was part of Phase 3 trials.
Russia became the first country in the world to approve its coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, in August, authorising the treatment for public use even before crucial Phase 3 trials were conducted. The move drew criticism from scientific circles.
Phase 3 trials are currently underway in which more than 20,000 volunteers have received their first dose of Sputnik V, and 16,000 participants have received the second dose, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which has funded the vaccine development.
The jab has already been administered to some Russian frontline health care workers, teachers and several top-level officials outside the clinical trials.
Putin’s order to intensify the vaccination program comes after the UK became the first Western country to authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.