Russia’s launch of the Covid-19 vaccine has met with cautious, mixed reactions

Kremlin officials and state-controlled media touted the Sputnik-V vaccine as a major achievement after it was approved on August 11. But among Russians, the hope that the shot would reverse the course of the Covid-19 crisis has mixed with caution and skepticism. Concerns about the way it was thrown out during its late-stage testing to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

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Russia has been criticized internationally for approving a vaccine that had not completed advanced studies in tens of thousands of people, and experts at home and abroad warned against its wider use until the studies are complete.

Despite these warnings, within weeks of approval, authorities began offering it to certain risk groups, such as: B. Front line medical workers. Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, said over 150,000 Russians got it last week.

One recipient was Dr. Alexander Zatsepin, an intensive care specialist in Voronezh, a city 500 kilometers south of Moscow, who received the vaccine in October.

“We have been working with Covid-19 patients since March and every day when we get home we worry about infecting our family members. So when an opportunity arose to protect her and myself, I thought it should be used, “he said.

But Zatsepin said he was still taking precautions against infection as studies on the vaccine’s effectiveness are still ongoing.

“There is still no such thing as absolute trust,” he said.

After the UK announced on December 2 that it had approved a vaccine developed by drug makers Pfizer and BioNTech, President Vladimir Putin urged authorities to launch a large-scale vaccination campaign, a sign of Moscow’s determination to be at the forefront of the race to stand against the pandemic.

Russia approved its vaccine after being tested on just a few dozen people and touted it as “the first in the world” to receive approval. The developers named it “Sputnik V”, a reference to the launch of the Soviet Union in 1957, the world’s first satellite during the Cold War.

It’s about more than just national pride. With more than 2.7 million cases of Covid-19 and over 49,000 deaths, Russia wants to avoid another damaging deadlock to its economy.

On December 2, Putin set a target of over 2 million doses in the coming days. Despite such a limited supply for a nation of 146 million people, Moscow immediately expanded who was eligible. Recordings are free for anyone in government or private medical or educational institutions. Social and community workers; Retail and service workers; and those in the arts.

The European Medicines Agency said it had not received a request from vaccine manufacturers to consider approval for use in the EU. However, some data has been shared with the World Health Organization. The UN agency doesn’t usually approve vaccines itself, but is waiting for regulators to weigh up first. The Russian vaccine is reportedly being considered for use in a WHO global initiative to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

Unlike the UK, where the first recordings are being made to the elderly, Sputnik V is going to people between the ages of 18 and 60 who have no chronic illnesses and are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

Putin himself has not yet received a Russian shot. The 68-year-old Russian leader said the shots in Russia are currently recommended for people of a certain age, adding that “vaccines have not yet reached people like me.” “But I will definitely do it when the time comes is possible, “Putin said at the annual press conference on Thursday.

The developers said that study data suggested the vaccine was 91% effective, a conclusion based on 78 infections in nearly 23,000 participants. That’s far fewer cases than Western drug manufacturers collected during final testing prior to analyzing the effectiveness of their candidates, and key demographic and other details from the study were not made public.

Some experts say such rates of effectiveness inspire optimism, but public confidence can be an issue.

“I don’t worry as much about Sputnik V being unsafe or less effective than we need to be,” said Judy Twigg, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in global health. “I worry about whether people are or not.” will be ready to take it in Russia. “

A poll conducted in October by the Levada Center, Russia’s leading independent pollster, found that 59% of Russians were unwilling to take the recordings even if they were offered for free.

Denis Volkov, sociologist and deputy director of the Levada Center, said respondents cited unfinished clinical studies and said the vaccine was “raw” and they were suspicious of claims that Russia was the first country to receive a vaccine while others were still working on theirs.

Some medical workers and teachers interviewed by The Associated Press were skeptical of the vaccine because it had not been fully tested.

Dr. Yekaterina Kasyanova, from the Siberian region of Kemerovo, said she did not trust him enough to get the shot and advised her mother, a teacher, not to get it either, adding, “The vaccine is several months old. … Long-term side effects are not known, their effectiveness has not been proven. “

Dzhamilya Kryazheva, a teacher in Krasnogorsk near Moscow, repeated this feeling.

“I don’t intend to experiment on my body. I have three children, “she said.

For other healthcare workers, the choice of vaccination was easy.

“People die here every day. Every day we do corpses. What is there to think about? “Said Dr. Marina Pecherkina, an infectious disease specialist in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. She got her recordings in October because of her daily work with coronavirus patients.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said around 15,000 people had received the shots since the vaccinations began on December 5. However, some media reports about the first days of the Moscow campaign showed empty clinics and medical workers offering the shots to anyone who walked in. In some cases it was because the vaccine has to be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius and each vial contains five doses. After thawing, it must be administered within two hours or thrown away.

The rollout outside of Moscow and the surrounding region appeared to be much slower. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that all regions started vaccination on December 15.

Media reports indicated that there might be issues with scaling the manufacturing and distribution of Sputnik V. Two different adenovirus vectors are used for the two-shot regime, which makes production difficult. In addition, storage and transportation at low temperatures make movement across the country difficult.

There have also been confused signals as to whether recipients should consume alcohol. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said those who get vaccinated should refrain from drinking for three days before and after the shooting.

Several medical workers in Siberia who received the vaccine later reported that they had contracted the virus. However, health officials said that not enough time had passed for the antibodies to develop.

Dr. Yevgenia Alexeyeva in the Siberian city of Tomsk tested positive for the virus 12 days after her second shot. Alexeyeva said that she was not surprised by the result and that it did not shake her confidence in the vaccine.

“The vaccine does not guarantee that the person will not be infected. But it should protect us from developing a serious case, “said Alexeyeva.

This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text.

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