Coronavirus vaccine clinics have opened across Moscow with health workers and teachers first in line to get Russia’s Sputnik V jab.
Seventy COVID-19 clinics opened in the Russian capital on Saturday, three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered a “large-scale” immunisation programme that he claims will begin with two million doses being made available this week.
The Sputnik V has not yet completed Phase 3 of its trials, unlike the vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, sparking widespread criticism it is not safe for use.
The Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, which is producing the vaccine, says an “advanced” study on 40,000 volunteers showed 91.4% efficacy after two doses.
Despite still being in the middle of safety tests, Sputnik V has been offered to teachers, and health and social care workers in recent months.
Several government officials say they have already had the jab and that Navy crews are being immunised before they leave for their next mission.
Health minister Mikhail Murashko said this week that more than 100,000 people have already been given vaccines.
The jab is being offered for free to anyone between the ages of 18 and 60, providing they do not suffer from a chronic illness, are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It only has to be stored at temperatures of -18C – making it much easier to preserve and transport than its Pfizer-BioNTech rival, which requires -70C conditions.
Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Friday that 5,000 had signed up to get one within the first few hours of the system launching.
But Sky News Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay said that only 17 people had signed up to a polyclinic she visited by around 1pm on Saturday.
Russia currently has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world – with 2.4 million confirmed since the start of the pandemic.
Saturday was another daily high, with 28,782 new cases reported, including 7,993 in Moscow.
So far, 42,684 virus-related deaths have been registered in Russia since the start of the outbreak.