UK and Russia announce start of COVID-19 vaccinations from next week

Both Russia’s Sputnik V and the UK’s Pfizer-BioNTech-produced vaccines are reported to be more than 95% effective in their final trials

December 04, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Russia, UK, COVID vaccines
(Photo: Sputnik / Alexey Sukhorukov)

Raising hopes for an early victory against COVID-19, Russian president Vladimir Putin on December 2, Wednesday, announced mass voluntary vaccination in Russia starting next week. Russia became the second country to declare such a move after the UK announced similar measures earlier in the day.

The UK health ministry said in a statement that it has accepted the recommendations of the Independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use. Prime minister Boris Johnson proclaimed the same in a television address to the nation.

The vaccine in the UK will be first made available to people who are in the high-risk category. According to health secretary Matt Hancock, the country will produce around 800,000 doses by next week.

Pfizer claimed on Wednesday that its vaccine is over 95% effective as per the latest trials.

The UK vaccine will need a storage facility of -70-degree Celsius, which limits the Pfizer vaccine’s mass dissemination through medical stores. According to the health ministry, a network of 50 hospitals across the country will deliver the first jabs (doses) to people. Each individual will need two jabs of the vaccine. The government has bought 40 million doses. According to Pfizer, immunity will develop in full seven days after the second dose, which is administered to a person only after 21 days of the first dose. Thus, it will take a minimum of 28 days for immunity to fully develop in a person through the two doses.

Though most have welcomed the announcement, a substantial section of people also expressed their apprehensions on social media sites about the “haste” with which the UK government approved Pfizer’s vaccine. An attempt by conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to claim Brexit’s role in the fast delivery of the vaccine also came under attack by different sections on social media.

Voluntary mass immunization in Russia

Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko presented the Sputnik V vaccine to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday. According to him, more than 100,000 people have already been inoculated in the country. 

Russia will be producing around two million doses of the vaccine within next week. As per Putin, teachers and medics in the country will get the first doses on a voluntary basis. 

Sputnik V was the world’s first registered COVID-19 vaccine which had state approval in August. According to RT, Sputnik V is 95% effective in its latest trials. Russia has also registered its second vaccine, EpiVacCorona.  

According to earlier reports, Russian Sputnik V is much cheaper than its other competitors. According to an article in RT, the two jabs of Sputnik V will cost around USD 20. The cost of Pfizer and Moderna produced vaccines are reported to be USD 39 and USD 57-74, respectively.