Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t been vaccinated against the coronavirus yet, months after he announced his country’s Sputnik V as the “world’s first” approved Covid-19 vaccine and said his own daughter had taken it.
The Kremlin said Tuesday that Putin cannot get a vaccine that has not yet finished the final stage of trials, even though the jab has already been given to some Russian frontline health care workers, teachers and several top level officials outside the clinical trials.
“The President cannot use an uncertified vaccine,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said during a call with reporters. Peskov did not explain the difference between the vaccine being “certified” and “approved,” but said: “Mass vaccination has not started yet. And, of course, the head of state cannot take part in vaccination as a volunteer. It’s impossible.”
Peskov said the trials should be completed soon and that Putin would inform people on his decision on whether to take the vaccine “if he considers it necessary.”
The news that Putin hasn’t taken the vaccine yet came on the same day that Sputnik V’s developers published new information about the vaccine, touting it as effective, cheap and easy to transport.
The Gamaelya institute, which is developing the vaccine, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which finances it, reported more interim data on the vaccine on Tuesday. In a news releases, they said that analysis of data obtained 28 days after the first dose and seven days after the second dose suggests the Sputnik vaccine was 91.4% effective in preventing infections.
The release said the researchers identified 39 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among the volunteers – 31 in the placebo group and eight among those who received the vaccine. It added 18,794 volunteers took part in the study.
Pfizer and Moderna reported similar efficacy rates – 94.5% for Moderna and 95% for Pfizer. However, their claims were based on larger sized clinical trials. Moderna reported 95 Covid-19 cases amongst its volunteers – 90 in the placebo group and 5 in the vaccinated cohort, while Pfizer reported 170 cases – 162 in the placebo group and eight in the participants who received the vaccine.
AstraZeneca announced on Monday that its experimental coronavirus vaccine has shown an average efficacy of 70%. It said a total of 131 study participants developed Covid-19 but did not say how many of those people had received the Covid-19 vaccine and how many did not.
In a separate statement, the Gamaelya institute and the RDIF said one dose of the vaccine will cost less than $10 on international markets, which they said was “two or more times cheaper than mRNA vaccines with similar efficacy levels.” The two-dose vaccine and vaccination will be free of charge for Russian citizens, the statement added. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are mRNA vaccines.
In the statement on Tuesday, Russia also said the Sputnik vaccine can be stored at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which is similar to what AstraZeneca said about its vaccine on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at around -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit) while it’s transported. Moderna said its vaccine can be kept in freezers typically available in pharmacies, and in a refrigerator for 30 days.
Putin first announced Russia’s vaccine was approved for public use in August, even though at that point it had been tested only on several dozen subjects in a non-blind study. The announcement came before the start of Phase 3 trials, which are key to establishing its safety and efficacy, and drew skepticism from the international community.
“I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity,” Putin said at the time, adding that one of his daughters had already taken the jab – a rare move from the President, who is notoriously secretive about his family. He said she had a slightly higher temperature after each dose, but added “now she feels well.”
Putin, at 68 years old, is in a high risk group. Vaccine trials for the first group of volunteers aged 60 and over began on October 28, according to Russian state new agency TASS.