Putin gets COVID-19 vaccination behind closed doors

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin was vaccinated against Covid-19 on Tuesday out of sight of the cameras, his spokesman said, raising questions whether the gesture will boost comparatively low immunization rates in Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin is feeling fine after getting the shot and is planning a regular workday. The Kremlin has not specified which vaccine Putin received.

He explained earlier that the president would get the vaccine out of the public eye because “when it comes to getting vaccinated on camera, he has never supported that, he doesn’t like that.”

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

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

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

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

Only 6.3 million people, or 4.3% 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 from 58% in December to 62% in February

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

A recent study in the British medical journal the Lancet showed that Sputnik V is 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with Covid-19. No data on efficacy of the two other vaccines have been released.