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Putin’s COVID-19 vaccination to be kept out of public eye

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MOSCOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin will be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday (Mar 23) out of sight of the cameras, his spokesman said, prompting questions about whether the gesture will boost comparatively low immunisation rates in Russia. 

Asked whether the Kremlin will release any photos or footage of Putin getting his coronavirus vaccine shot, Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference call that they would have to “take (our) word for it.”

“When it comes to getting vaccinated on camera, he has never supported that, he doesn’t like that,” Peskov said.

Peskov would not reveal whether Putin will go to a vaccination facility or if the shot will be brought to him in his office or residence, saying only that “it will be done in a way that would the least affect” Putin’s working schedule.

Putin announced that he would get vaccinated at a government meeting the day before. The statement came several months after widespread immunisation against COVID-19 kicked off in Russia. 

Kremlin critics have argued that Putin’s reluctance to get vaccinated was contributing to the already existing hesitancy about the vaccine.

Only 6.3 million people, or 4.3 per cent of Russia’s 146 million population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine. It lags behind a number of other countries in terms of the vaccination rate. 

Surveys by Russia’s top independent pollster, Levada Center, have shown that the number of Russians reluctant to get vaccinated with the domestically developed Sputnik V shot has grown in recent months – to 62 per cent in February from 58 per cent in December.

Pressed by reporters over whether Putin should get vaccinated on camera in order to boost slow vaccination rates, Peskov argued that Russians “will hear” about the president’s vaccination and that Putin is already doing “a lot” for promoting the vaccination campaign.

“The president … dedicates a rather significant time in his working hours to events, discussions, meetings related to vaccination, production of vaccines and so on. So the president does a lot for propaganda of the vaccines,” Peskov said.

The Kremlin spokesman refused to reveal which one of the three vaccines authorized for use in Russia Putin will receive, saying only that all three are “absolutely good, reliable, effective.”

Russian authorities have given regulatory approval to three domestically developed shots – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac. All three received the authorisation before completing advanced trials experts say are necessary to ensure their safety and effectiveness in line with established scientific protocol.

However, a recent study in the British medical journal the Lancet showed that Sputnik V is 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19, although it is still unclear if the vaccine can prevent the spread of the disease. No data on efficacy of the two other vaccines have been released.

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