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Russia launches mass COVID vaccination campaign

sputnik-v vaccine (Mos.ru/WikiCommons)

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

Russia has launched a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign opened to all Russians in a bid to stem the spread of the virus without reimposing a new nationwide lockdown.

Dozens of Moscow residents lined up on January 18 at a mobile clinic set up at the GUM department store on Red Square, where they received their first shot of the locally developed Sputnik-V vaccine.

Russia, which has the world’s fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases, began large-scale vaccinations last month, initially for people in key professions such as medical workers and teachers, even though the inoculation was still in its third phase of clinical trials.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin instructed officials to open up the inoculation program to the rest of the country’s population of 146 million, and to boost production of its vaccine.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said on January 18 that authorities planned to vaccinate more than 20 million Russians against COVID-19 in the first quarter of the year.

But while the vaccine has been widely available in Moscow, with vaccination centers located at prominent sites in the capital, reports said most regions have reported receiving fewer than 5,000 doses so far.

Unlike many European countries, Russia has refrained from reimposing a strict nationwide lockdown despite being hit by a second wave of infections.

Russian health authorities have reported more than 3.5 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with over 66,000 deaths. However, the death toll is believed to be much higher.