Covid vaccinations begin in Moscow for nurses and teachers

5 December 2020, 10:29

A medical worker injects the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on Saturday in Moscow.
A medical worker injects the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on Saturday in Moscow. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Russia has begun its vaccination programme in Moscow, offering jabs to high-risk groups at 70 medical facilities across the capital.

Advanced trials of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine are still ongoing, but shots will be offered to 13 million people aged 18-60.

People working in education and medical facilities, as well as municipal workers are being offered the vaccine in Moscow.

Those who are eligible have been sent text messages telling them they can get the vaccine free of charge.

On Friday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said 5,000 people had signed up in the first five hours of the registration website opening.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Wednesday that more than 100,000 people in Russia have already been given the shots.

Read more: Biden confirms Covid-19 vaccine won't be mandatory in US

Russia has touted its domestically developed vaccine as the world's "first registered COVID-19 vaccine" after the government gave it regulatory approval in early August.

Developers say the vaccine is 95% effective and causes no major side effects, but regulators have drawn criticism for giving it the go-ahead after having been tested on only several dozen people.

On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to start "large-scale" vaccination in Russia by the end of next week.

The statement came hours after Britain became the first country to authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which has been through extensive trials.

In Britain, GPs have been told they must be ready to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from 14 December.

In a letter to surgeries, NHS England and NHS Improvement warned the rollout is "one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced".

Read more: 'Be ready to start vaccinating by 14 December', GPs told

Unlike in Russia, in the UK people aged 80 or over will be the first to receive the jab.

GP surgeries must prepare to administer 975 doses of the shot - which is one full vaccine pack - to priority patients within three-and-a-half days of delivery on 14 December.

However, the UK's four chief medical officers have warned that new coronavirus vaccines will only have a "marginal impact" on hospital numbers over the winter.

In a letter written to colleagues, the four warned that festive gatherings would likely put additional pressure on the NHS and other care services.

"Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months,” they wrote.

The chief medical officer of England, Professor Chris Whitty; of Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith; of Wales, Dr Frank Atherton; and of Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride, all signed the letter.