In a country with rejection rates close to 60% of the use of its Covid-19 vaccines, the president is expected to be the first to receive the needle in the arm in order to boost public confidence in the vaccines.
Law? In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it’s not quite like that. The head of state announced that he would receive the first dose of one of the three vaccines produced in his country on Tuesday (23), but he did not specify what it will be and will not do so publicly.
“About getting vaccinated in front of the cameras, he doesn’t like it,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov summed up, according to the Tass news agency. The explanation of the mystery about which vaccine would be applied seems more reasonable: Peskov says the idea is to show that everyone is safe.
Putin will most likely receive a dose of Sputnik V, the immunizer heralded as the first to be cleared for emergency use worldwide – despite the fact that in reality only phase 3 testing, the last one, has started. .
Two other vaccines are available, but have not yet reached the public, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac. Little is known about them, while Sputnik V has already had its preliminary Phase 3 studies published in the prestigious British scientific journal The Lancet – with a 91.6% effectiveness against Covid-19.
The mystery is something to the taste of Putin, who barely left his residence outside Moscow during the entire year of the pandemic, according to reports for fear of contamination. But that doesn’t exactly seem like a motivating tactic.
Resistance to Sputnik’s takeover in Russia was measured at 58% in December by the Centro Levada, an independent public opinion institute. Liubov, a 42-year-old hematologist at the Covid-19 Referral Hospital in Moscow, is one example.
She asked not to reveal her last name, as the board of directors of Kommunarka, the hospital in question, was organizing a small witch hunt among the doctors who had not received a vaccine. “I just think you have to wait a few months to find out if it’s really safe,” Liubov said.
When asked if she was not convinced by the publication of data on the safety and effectiveness of Sputnik V in The Lancet, she said that she “did not know which issues were being delivered to the British” .
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funded the creation and is the global distributor of the vaccine, disputes these points. He says the vaccine is completely safe, as phases 1, 2 and 3 have shown.
Liubov’s husband Pavel also disagrees with his wife. Diplomat today in the field of military analysis, he affirms that “the divergence hardly led to divorce”, jokingly. He took both doses of Sputnik V and had only a slight fever on the first inoculation.
The Russian attitude towards the disease is also ambiguous. On Sunday (21), when he disembarked in Beijing, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was given a mask by journalists from his country for his 71 years.
On it was written, without the vowels and in English, FKGN QRNTN, a rude way of saying “fucking quarantine”.
Debates aside, the fact is that Russia has a lethargic vaccination program. With the fourth highest number of cases in the world (4.2 million infections), the country only vaccinated 3.9% of the population with at least one dose of Sputnik V and 1.9% with both .
After a strong rebound late last year, however, Russian curves retreated. As of Tuesday, there were 8,457 new cases and 427 deaths – the country’s mortality is 656 per million people, or half of Brazil’s population.
Despite doubts at home, Sputnik V, whose name pays homage to the world’s first satellite, whose launch by the Soviet Union in 1957 was a technical and propaganda feat, follows a controversial and successful international career.
It is the centerpiece of Putin’s soft power offensive under constant pressure from the West, especially after the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalni. Russia, China and India lead such vaccine geopolitics, while rich countries have focused more on internal immunization.
On Tuesday, Vietnam became the 56th country to approve the use of the vaccine, placing it behind in the world rankings by ranking only the immunizer from Oxford / AstraZeneca (86 countries) and the drug from Pfizer / BioNTech (72 country). Coronavac, Chinese and to be manufactured at the Butantan Institute, is authorized on 9.
The two western vaccines are a priority in the World Health Organization’s subsidized distribution program, Covax. Russia called on Tuesday for Sputnik V to be included in the program.
The Sputnik problem is a production problem. There are just over 700 million doses ordered worldwide, but the authorizations have so far opened markets to 1.5 billion people.
Russia last week struck a deal with three Indian manufacturers for local production, guaranteeing doses for 326 million people by the end of the year. In Brazil, an agreement with União Química to manufacture at least 8 million doses per month in the Federal District is blocked.
Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) says the Russians failed to provide all the documents needed for the emergency approval of the immunizer, which was announced by some States and is under strong pressure from the center parties.
Until the beginning of the year there was a dispute over the versions, with Moscow claiming that everything was delivered. The Brazilian government says it has ordered 10 million doses, even without approval. Folha questioned the fund and União Química on Tuesday, but received no response.
The controversy is even greater in Europe. Anvisa from the European bloc, EMA, is analyzing an order for emergency use of the vaccine on the continent, which suffers from production bottlenecks and interruptions in the application of the drug Oxford / AstraZeneca.
The Russian fund says, although these data have not been revised, the vaccine is effective against newer variants of Sars-CoV-2, such as those that have generated high cases in European countries.
The German and Italian governments have said they want to buy and produce Sputnik V as soon as there is an authorization, but the vaccine has been criticized several times by European health officials.
Russia accuses them of prejudice and denounces a campaign by pharmaceutical companies and Western governments against their product. This Tuesday, the French Secretary for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, went in another direction and told France Info radio that his country could apply for Sputnik V as early as June.
The dispute led to what could be the first fall of government due to a vaccine in Slovakia, the only country in the European Union, alongside Hungary, to have already approved Sputnik V. There, Prime Minister Igor Matovic ordered 2 million doses of the immunizer. and has already received 200 thousand.
Members of his coalition do not agree with the request without EMA approval and the Minister of Health has resigned. Matovic made the post available over the weekend, but says he “can’t help but save lives” in the country, which has the highest per capita daily death rate in Europe.