Some Russians, dismayed at vaccine exports, call for more doses at home
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Some Russians took to social media on Friday to voice frustration after 300,000 doses of the country’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine were supplied to Argentina, arguing that more shots should be made available at home.
Though the vaccine is readily available in Moscow, relatively small batches have so far been delivered to many Russian regions as part of a mass inoculation programme, with several reporting receiving 2,000 doses or less so far.
Novgorod has received 600 doses for civilian use thus far, according to an official in the local government. Kaliningrad has received 400, according to the Interfax news agency.
“Better hurry to Argentina to get vaccinated then,” Alexander, a resident of Kaliningrad, said on Twitter.
The Samara region has received 2,751 doses of Sputnik V for civilian use, according to local officials, and a further 1,000 for members of the military based there.
“Awesome! 3,000 for Samara, while Argentina gets 300,000…” wrote another Twitter user, Maria.
The Russian health ministry did not respond to a request for comment on any regional shortages of vaccine doses.
Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines has become an issue across the world as rich nations, including in Europe and the United States, secure hundreds of millions of doses of various shots, while poorer countries face more of a struggle to access supplies.
Russia has announced several international deals for the supply of Sputnik V, which is named after the Soviet-era satellite that triggered the space race, in a nod to the project’s geopolitical importance for Moscow. So far, regulators in Argentina and Belarus have approved the use the vaccine.
Russian officials have said that international Sputnik V orders would primarily be met using doses produced by manufacturers abroad.
“Russians are the absolutely priority,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this month. “And domestic production … will specifically cover the needs of Russians.”
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the sovereign wealth fund responsible for marketing Sputnik V abroad, has struck international manufacturing deals with vaccine makers in India, South Korea, China and Brazil.
The RDIF declined to comment on whether the doses sent to Argentina, the first tranche of a 10-million-dose deal, were produced in Russia or abroad, or on the criticism voiced by some citizens about domestic supplies.
(Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Pravin Char)