Russia begins mass vaccinations in cosmonaut center


Moscow (AFP)

Russia’s Cosmonaut Training Center said on Tuesday it had started vaccinating employees against the coronavirus before future space missions.

The press service of the Yuri Gagarin training center told AFP that around 40 of its nearly 1,500 employees had received the first dose of the Russian vaccine against the Sputnik V coronavirus.

Named after the famous Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to travel in space, the center is located in Star City, a short drive from Moscow.

“The training is continuing and we are prioritizing the vaccination of employees who are in close contact with the teams preparing for the mission,” said the spokesperson for the center.

The center said the main and relief crews on a new expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) had been vaccinated earlier and would receive their second dose on Friday.

Sputnik V has an efficiency of over 90% according to its developers. It is administered in two doses with an interval of three weeks.

By mid-December, Russia had vaccinated several cosmonauts ahead of future flights and some of them have already received both doses.

The next Russian crew of the ISS – cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Pyotr Dubrovnik and Sergei Korsakov – are due to leave the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan in April 2021.

Novitsky and Dubrovnik have received their first doses, the center said Tuesday, quoted by the TASS news agency.

The two Russian cosmonauts currently on the ISS – Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov – had not been vaccinated before their takeoff at the end of September.

At the time, the Russian vaccine had just started its third phase of testing, and cosmonauts said they would wait for further testing.

Russia began mass vaccinations with Sputnik V in early December, while batches of the vaccine were sent overseas to Belarus, Serbia and Argentina.

According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which funded Sputnik’s development, more than one million people have been vaccinated in Russia.


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