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Putin reveals he had the Sputnik Covid shot as Russia struggles with its vaccine uptake

Watching a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual televised phone-in, at the newsroom of the TASS news agency.

Gavriil Grigorov | TASS | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he had received the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, as the Kremlin struggles to convince a skeptical public about the benefits of inoculation.

“I thought that I needed to be protected as long as possible. So I chose to be vaccinated with Sputnik V. The military is getting vaccinated with Sputnik V, and after all I’m the commander-in-chief,” Putin said during his annual phone-in session where the public submit questions to the president.

“After the first shot, I didn’t feel anything at all. About four hours later, there was some tenderness where I had the shot. I did the second [shot] at midday. At midnight, I measured my temperature. It was 37.2 [Celsius]. I went to sleep, woke up and my temperature was 36.6. That was it,” Putin said in comments translated by Reuters.

Putin had previously refused to say which Covid vaccine he received in March and the Kremlin said it would keep the information a “secret.” Putin was not filmed or photographed receiving the shot prompting speculation among the Russian public and international press that he didn’t receive a Russian vaccine at all.

Doubts over Putin’s vaccine status have not helped to allay a seeming reluctance among Russians to get a Covid vaccination, despite incentives for older people to get the shot.

Russia has authorized four home-grown vaccines for use now and was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus shot, Sputnik V (its most well-known vaccine) last August.

The fact that the vaccine was approved before clinical trials were completed raised eyebrows among the global scientific community and that’s believed to have contributed to skepticism among the public over the vaccine’s safety credentials and efficacy.

Still, interim analysis of phase 3 clinical trials of the shot, involving 20,000 participants and published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet in early February, found that it was 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 infection. Russia has sought to sell its vaccine to multiple countries around the world, particularly its allies.

Nonetheless, vaccination rates at home remain sluggish much to the chagrin of Putin, who has extolled the benefits of Russia’s Covid vaccines and encouraged the public to take up the shots. Its vaccination rate lags many countries, including that of India, Mexico and Brazil.

Our World in Data figures suggest that 12% of Russia’s population has received two doses of a vaccine, while 3% has received a first dose.

Putin’s comments come as Russia struggles to contain Covid and the delta variant surges in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Last Friday, Russia’s coronavirus task force reported 20,393 new Covid cases, the most confirmed in a single day since Jan. 24, according to Reuters. The figures included 7,916 new infections in Moscow. Russia has recorded almost 5.5 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

Speaking to various members of the public from across Russia during the question-and-answer session, Putin covered a variety of topics, including rising food prices, energy infrastructure, relations with Ukraine and housing issues. Over 1 million questions were submitted to Putin, news agency TASS reported.

On the matter of compulsory vaccination of the public given the low immunization rate, Putin reiterated on Wednesday that he still didn’t agree with it, although there have been moves to push Russians into accepting the shot with the prospect of restrictions and possible job losses for those that don’t accept it.

In Moscow, for example, officials have said that 60% of service sector workers must get a first dose of a Covid vaccine before July 15.


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