Putin to get vaccinated against the coronavirus; Russia’s vaccine strategy at a glance

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 Putin to get vaccinated against the coronavirus;  Russia's vaccine strategy at a glance


Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting focused on supporting the aviation industry and air travel at his country residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, on May 13, 2020.
Alexey Nikolsky | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, as intrigue surrounds the country’s vaccine strategy.
The Kremlin has said it will not reveal the name of the vaccine Putin will receive, but that it will be one of three vaccines made in Russia.

“We are deliberately not saying what blow the president will get, noting that the three Russian vaccines are absolutely reliable and effective,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters on Tuesday.

There are three Russian vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac – and the latter two have only recently gained emergency approval.

The Russian president is expected to receive the vaccine on Tuesday evening, Peskov added. It is not known if he will be filmed receiving the photo, as Peskov noted that Putin did not like the idea of ​​being vaccinated on camera.

Slow vaccine deployment

The vaccination comes as the spotlight is on the country’s vaccination strategy. On Monday, Putin praised the multi-million dollar international sales of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine, but the country’s rollout appears slow and in stark contrast to the high number of vaccines destined for the international market..
There are reports that Russia’s production capacity is low and Putin appears to be signaling it on Monday. He said Russia needed to increase production of household vaccines and meeting national needs was a priority, according to Reuters.

He noted that 4.3 million people in the country had already received two doses of the vaccine. That’s significantly higher than, for example, the UK which has given around 2.3 million people both doses to date, but Russia was the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against the coronavirus. (Sputnik V) in August 2020 – the UK approved its first shot in early December.

Logistics

Russia has a number of logistical challenges to overcome when deploying a vaccine. It is the largest country in the world and has a population of around 144 million people spread over a territory that spans Europe and northern Asia.

In early March, Putin noted that all but nine Russian regions had started rolling out the vaccine, with delays related to “problems with logistics, distribution (and) locations,” the Moscow Times reported.

Global immunization program data shows Russia is lagging behind many other countries in its own nationwide rollout, with the number of single doses administered in Russia hovering just above the number given in Bangladesh, according to Our World in Data.

Vaccination data is made more salient given that Russia has been hit so hard by the pandemic: it has recorded the fourth highest number of cases in the world (over 4.4 million) and more than 94,000 people have died from Covid in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Skepticism about vaccines

Another big problem hindering Russia’s deployment is reluctance to vaccinate its citizens. Daragh McDowell, director of Europe and senior analyst for Russia at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC that the country’s lower vaccination rates are “likely much more the result of unwillingness on the part of popular skepticism. on the vaccine than from a lack of supply ”.

He noted that the latest data from the Levada Center, an independent pollster in Russia, suggests that only 30% of Russians “are ready to be vaccinated, a number which has actually declined since last year.”

“This is mainly due to concerns about side effects and the fact that the vaccine has not been sufficiently tested – in other words, while the Kremlin has received a propaganda boost by releasing the vaccine first,” it came at the cost of doubts about his safety, “McDowell noted.

Woman receives second component of Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) COVID-19 vaccine.

Valentin Sprinchak | TASS | Getty Images

Sputnik V was initially only allowed in Russia for people between the ages of 18 and 60, meaning Putin, who is 68, was too old to receive it. However, other trials in the elderly have found that the vaccine is safe in people aged 60 and over, and that this age group can now receive the vaccine.

“The fact that Putin has waited this long to get himself vaccinated will not have gone unnoticed and will have contributed to these doubts,” McDowell added.

“The president’s vaccination will convince some Russians of the vaccine’s efficacy and safety (but) high levels of social mistrust and conspiratorial thinking will mitigate its impact. ”

He pointed out that the same poll data that showed 30% of Russians were ready to be vaccinated also revealed that almost two-thirds believed Covid had been artificially developed as a biological weapon.

International sales offers

Another aspect of Russia’s vaccination program that is drawing attention is the high number of international sales of its vaccine. On Monday, Putin confirmed that Russia had signed international sales agreements for doses of Sputnik V for 700 million people.

RDIF, the Russian sovereign wealth fund that has supported the development and deployment of Sputnik V, said on Tuesday that Sputnik V has now been approved in 56 countries, with Vietnam being the latest to join the list. Several Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Slovakia, have also ordered doses of Sputnik V.

Meanwhile, the European medicines regulator launched an ongoing review of Sputnik V earlier this month.

McDowell of Verisk Maplecroft pointed out that while the exports of 700 million doses were “an extremely ambitious number”, they likely include hinds produced overseas, in India and South Korea for example, under license.

Data analysis

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was approved by Russia’s health regulator in August last year before clinical trials ended, prompting skepticism among experts that it might not respond to strict standards of safety and efficacy. Some experts have argued that the Kremlin is eager to achieve victory in the race to develop a Covid vaccine, an accusation it has leveled at other countries. Russia has repeatedly said its vaccine is the target of anti-Russian sentiment.

Russia seemed to be justified in early February, when an interim review of Phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine, involving 20,000 participants, was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet. He found the vaccine to be 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 infection.

In an accompanying article in The Lancet, Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, England, noted that “the development of the Sputnik V vaccine has been criticized for its improper rush. But the result reported here is clear and the science behind the principle of vaccination has been demonstrated, which means that another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. ”

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