Geopolitics

Moscow opens dozens of COVID-19 vaccination centers

MOSCOW – Thousands of doctors, teachers and other people in high-risk groups signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations in Moscow as of Saturday, a forerunner to a comprehensive Russian-wide vaccination campaign in Russia.

The vaccinations come three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the start of a “large-scale” COVID-19 vaccination campaign, despite a vaccine developed in Russia having the advanced studies necessary to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific evidence , has not yet completed logs.

The Russian head of state said Wednesday that more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V-jab will be available in the next few days, so authorities can start offering jabs to medical professionals and teachers across the country from the end of next week.

Moscow, which currently accounts for about a quarter of the country’s daily new infections, led the curve and opened 70 vaccination facilities on Saturday. Doctors, teachers and community workers were invited to book an appointment for a push, and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that about 5,000 people signed up within hours of the system going live on Friday.

Russia stated that Sputnik V was the “first registered COVID-19 vaccine” in the world after the government granted it regulatory approval in early August. The move was criticized by international experts, who pointed out that the vaccine had only been tested on several dozen people at the time.

Putin shook off doubts, saying in August that one of his daughters was an early vaccine recipient.

For the past few months, Sputnik V has been offered to medical professionals and teachers, although it was still in the middle of advanced studies. Several senior officials said they received the bumps too, and earlier this week the Russian military began vaccinating crews of naval vessels leaving on missions.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Wednesday that more than 100,000 people in Russia have already received the shots.

The free vaccine is offered to people aged 18 to 60 who do not have chronic illnesses and are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

The two-shot Sputnik V was developed by the Moscow Gamaleya Institute. An advanced study among 40,000 volunteers was announced two weeks after government approval of the vaccine was received and is still ongoing.

Last month, the vaccine developers said an interim analysis of the experimental data showed an effectiveness of 91.4%. The conclusion was based on 39 infections among 18,794 study participants who received both doses of the vaccine or a placebo. This is a much lower number of infections than Western drug manufacturers looked at when assessing the effectiveness of their vaccines. Two other vaccines developed in Russia are also being tested.

The UK on Wednesday became the first country in the west to approve the use of a vaccine against the coronavirus developed by US drug maker Pfizer and German BioNTech.

Russia was hit by another outbreak of the outbreak this fall, with new infections exceeding levels seen at the start of the pandemic. However, the authorities have so far refrained from a strict lockdown imposed in the spring.

On Saturday, Russia reported a new record high of 28,782 daily infections, including 7,993 in Moscow. The government task force has recorded a total of 42,684 virus-related deaths since the outbreak began.

Russia’s total of over 2.4 million confirmed cases is currently the fourth largest case number in the world after the US, India and Brazil.

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