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Putin orders mass coronavirus vaccinations starting next week

sputnik-v vaccine (Mos.ru/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered officials to begin mass vaccinations next week and to open up the inoculation program to all Russians.

“I ask you to start mass vaccinations of the entire population as early as next week,” Putin told officials during a government meeting by video link on January 13, touting Russia’s homemade jab as “the best in the world.”

Putin said Russia should “get relevant infrastructure ready” to boost production of its Sputnik-V vaccine.

Russia, which has the world’s fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases, began large-scale vaccinations last month even though it was still in its third phase of clinical trials.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said the authorities would be ready to broaden the program from January 18.

The RDIF sovereign-wealth fund has said 1.5 million Russians have already been inoculated with Sputnik-V.

Russia health authorities have reported more than 3.4 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with over 63,300 deaths. However, the death toll is believed to be much higher.