Russian President Vladimir Putin will chair a meeting on May 13, 2020 to focus on assisting the aviation industry and aviation at his land residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow.

Alexey Nikolsky | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – Russian President Vladimir Putin received a coronavirus shot Tuesday as the country’s vaccination strategy is surrounded by intrigue.

Earlier in the day, the Kremlin said it would not reveal the name of the vaccine Putin would receive, but only one of three shots made in Russia.

“We deliberately do not say which shot the president will get, and we find that all three Russian vaccines are completely reliable and effective,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.

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

The 68-year-old Russian president received the vaccine on Tuesday evening, according to local media reports. It is unclear whether he was filmed when he received the tape. Peskov noted that Putin didn’t like the idea of ​​being vaccinated on camera.

Slow vaccine rollout

Vaccination comes when the country’s vaccination strategy takes center stage. On Monday, Putin praised the multimillion-dollar international sales of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine, but the country’s rollout appears to be sluggish and contrasts sharply with the large number of vaccines destined for the international market.

It was reported that Russia’s own manufacturing capacity is low and Putin appeared to be approving. He said Monday that Russia needs to ramp up vaccine production for domestic use and that meeting domestic needs is a priority, according to Reuters.

He found that 4.3 million people in the country had already received two doses of the vaccine. This is much higher than in the UK, for example, where around 2.3 million people have given both doses to date. However, Russia became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine (Sputnik V) in August – Britain approved its first shot in early December.

logistics

Russia faces a number of logistical challenges when introducing a vaccine. It is the largest country in the world and has around 144 million inhabitants in an area that stretches across Europe and northern Asia.

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

Global data on vaccination programs shows that Russia is lagging behind many other countries in its own domestic rollout, with the number of single doses administered in Russia just above the number of doses administered in Bangladesh, according to Our World in Data.

Vaccination dates are highlighted as Russia has been so hard hit by the pandemic: it has recorded the fourth highest number of cases in the world (over 4.4 million) and over 94,000 people have died from Covid in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Vaccination skepticism

Another major problem hindering Russia’s adoption is citizens’ reluctance to adopt vaccines. Daragh McDowell, head of Europe and senior Russian analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC that the country’s lower vaccination rates were “likely due to a lack of public willingness to be skeptical about the vaccine rather than 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 get vaccinated, a number that has actually decreased since last year”.

“This is mainly due to concerns about side effects and the inadequate testing of the vaccine. In other words, while the Kremlin received a boost in propaganda by bringing the vaccine out first, it came at the expense of doubts about its safety.” Said McDowell.

A woman receives the second component of the Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) COVID-19 vaccine.

Valentin Sprinchak | TASS | Getty Images

Sputnik V was originally only approved for use in Russia for those ages 18 to 60, which means Putin was too old to receive it. Further studies in seniors found the vaccine was safe in people 60 and older, so the age group can now get the shot.

“The fact that Putin waited so long to be vaccinated himself is not going to go unnoticed and has contributed to these doubts,” added McDowell.

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

He noted that the same survey data that showed that 30% of Russians were willing to get vaccinated also showed that nearly two-thirds believed Covid was artificially developed as a biological weapon.

International sales agreements

Another aspect of the Russian vaccine program that has attracted attention is the high number of international sales of its vaccine. On Monday, Putin confirmed that Russia had signed international sales agreements for Sputnik V cans for 700 million people.

RDIF, Russia’s state fund that supported the development and deployment of Sputnik V, announced Tuesday that Sputnik V has now been approved in 56 countries, with Vietnam being the last on the list. Several Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Slovakia have also ordered Sputnik V cans.

In the meantime, the European Medicines Agency launched an ongoing review of Sputnik V earlier this month.

Verisk Maplecroft’s McDowell said exporting 700 million cans was “an extremely ambitious figure” but likely includes cans made overseas, such as under license in India and South Korea.

Data processing

Russian vaccine Sputnik V was approved by the Russian health authority in August, ahead of the completion of clinical trials, causing skepticism among experts that it may not meet strict safety and efficacy standards. Some experts argued that the Kremlin is keen to win the race to develop a Covid vaccine, an indictment it has brought against other countries. Russia has repeatedly stated that its vaccine is the target of anti-Russian sentiment.

Russia appeared to be confirmed in early February As an interim analysis of the 20,000-participant Phase 3 clinical trials of the shot was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet. The vaccine was found to be 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 infections.

In a companion article, Ian Jones, Professor of Virology at the University of Reading, England noted that “the development of the Sputnik V vaccine has been criticized for undue rush. However, the result reported here is clear and the scientific principle of vaccination is demonstrated which is what.” means another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. “