Belarus Starts Coronavirus Vaccination With Sputnik V

Belarus on Tuesday began a vaccination drive against coronavirus using the Sputnik V jab, becoming the first country outside Russia to use the vaccine developed by Moscow.

Belarus, with a population of around 9.5 million people, has registered more than 188,000 cases of coronavirus infections and nearly 1,400 deaths.

«Today the first vaccine shipment has arrived in Belarus,» said the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which financed Sputnik V.

RDIF spokesman Arseny Palagin did not say how many doses had been sent to Belarus.

Belarus Health Minister Dmitry Pinevich said health workers and teachers would be among the first Belarusians to be inoculated.

«We thank Russia for active mutual work and strategic cooperation to solve this issue,» Pinevich was quoted as saying in the joint statement.

Kirill Dmitriyev, RDIF general director, said Russia planned to begin producing Sputnik V in the ex-Soviet country to «simplify logistics» and speed up the vaccination campaign.

Russia in August was the first country to announce the registration of a coronavirus vaccine — dubbed Sputnik V after the Soviet-era satellite — but did so ahead of large scale clinical trials.

Western and some Russian experts have raised concerns over the fast-tracked jab and critics have described it as a tool to bolster Russia’s geopolitical influence.

Germany Offers Russia Support in Sputnik Vaccine Development

Germany has offered Russia support in Moscow’s development of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.

Russian authorities said Wednesday they have applied for registration of Sputnik V in the European Union.

«Beyond all the political differences that are currently large, we can nevertheless work together in a pandemic, in a humanitarian area,» Merkel told journalists.

On Moscow’s application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the German leader said she has «offered that our Paul Ehrlich Institute … support Russia on it.»

The Paul Ehrlich Institute is Germany’s medicine regulatory body.

«And if this vaccine is approved by the EMA, then we can talk about joint production or also about usage,» Merkel said.

Russia in August registered Sputnik V — named after the Soviet-era satellite — months ahead of Western competitors but before the start of large-scale clinical trials, which left some experts wary.

Its developers have since said that the jab is more than 90 percent effective and Russia launched its mass vaccination campaign using the shot this week.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund which helped develop the vaccine, says Sputnik has already been registered in a number of countries including Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia and Algeria.

Argentina began administering second doses of Sputnik V this week, having begun its immunization campaign in late December.

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