Russia begins mass vaccination campaign

Thousands of doctors, professors and others in risk groups signed up to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Moscow starting this Saturday, at the start of the most comprehensive immunization campaign across Russia.

The vaccinations come three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the start of a “large-scale” immunization campaign against the new coronavirus , although the drug against the virus designed in the country has not completed the advanced studies necessary to guarantee its effectiveness and safety in accordance with established scientific protocols.

Putin said on Wednesday that more than two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine will be available in the coming days , allowing authorities to offer them to health workers and teachers across the country starting late next week.

Moscow, which currently records about 25 percent of new daily infections in the country, opened 70 vaccination centers on Saturday . Doctors, teachers and municipal workers were invited to reserve their turn for an injection, and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said some 5,000 people signed up in the hours after the system began operating on Friday.

Russia boasts that Sputnik V was the “world’s first registered COVID-19 vaccine” after the government gave it regulatory approval in early August. The move drew criticism from international experts, who indicated that at the time it had only been tested on a few dozen people.

Putin downplayed those doubts, saying in August that one of his daughters was among the first recipients of the vaccine. It may interest you: Isn’t it very safe? Kremlin clarifies Putin can’t get Russian COVID-19 vaccines. In recent months, Sputnik V has been offered to healthcare workers and teachers, although it was still in advanced trials.

Several senior officials said they had received it, and earlier this week the Russian military began inoculating navy crews who will embark on missions. More than 100,000 people have already been vaccinated in Russia, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko reported on Wednesday. The free vaccine is offered to people between the ages of 18 and 60 without chronic diseases and who are not pregnant or nursing mothers.

Sputnik V, which requires two injections, was developed by the Gamaleya Institute, based in the Russian capital. Two weeks after receiving government authorization, an advanced study with 40,000 volunteers was announced and is still underway. In November, the creators of the injection noted that interim analysis of the data showed it to be between 91.4 and 95 percent effective.

The conclusion was based on 39 infections among the 18,794 study participants who received both doses of the drug or the placebo, which is a much lower infection rate than that seen by Western pharmaceutical companies when evaluating the effectiveness of their vaccines. The other two vaccines developed in Russia are still in the testing phase.

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