Russia became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, in August, allowing treatment for public use even before a major third phase of the trial was conducted. The move has drawn criticism from the scientific community.
On Wednesday, Putin said in a televised cabinet meeting that Russia should start widespread immunization efforts.
“More than two million drugs have been produced or will be produced in the next few days. Mass-vaccination,” said the Russian leader.
Putin added that the main focus is on “vaccination of two risk groups: doctors and teachers.”
He addressed Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is responsible for the country’s response to the coronavirus.
“If you believe we are close to this stage, I urge you to organize work in such a way that next weekend we will start a large-scale vaccination.”
Golikova replied that Russia could begin vaccinating large doses in December. She reiterated that the first priority was vaccinations and teachers, but added that she was looking for large groups of vaccines.
“I would like to reiterate that, of course, it will be exciting, free of charge for the citizens, and this week I hope … I’m sure we will complete all preparations to report that we are ready to start next week,” Golikova said at the meeting.
Putin replied: “We agree that you will not only report, but you will start a large-scale vaccination, right?”
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Wednesday that more than 100,000 Russians have been vaccinated against Sputnik so far.
Vaccine developers said earlier that Sputnik-V was administered to a group of 10,000 volunteers from the “red zone” of the Russian hospital in September. In addition, the Russian military said last week that 2,500 troops had been vaccinated and would remain active by the end of the year.
The jab was given to a number of Russian paramedics, teachers and several high-ranking officials outside the clinical laboratory.
Putin’s order to increase immunization programs comes after Britain became the first Western country to allow the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.