Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the country’s authorities to begin mass voluntary vaccinations against COVID-19 from next week onwards.
The move, announced on Wednesday, came after Russia said last month that its domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine was 92 percent effective at protecting people from COVID-19, according to interim results.
The country will have produced two million doses of the vaccine within the next few days, Putin said, noting that teachers and medics will be the first to receive shots.
“Let’s agree on this – you will not report to me next week, but you will start mass vaccination … let’s get to work already,” he told Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.
The Kremlin earlier gave assurances that Russians were first in line to be vaccinated, with Moscow also discussing supply deals with other countries.
“The absolute priority are Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.”
More than 100,000 people have already been inoculated against the novel coronavirus, according to Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, who presented the Sputnik V vaccine to the United Nations over video link on Wednesday.
With 2,347,401 confirmed infections as of Wednesday, Russia has the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil.
It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, authorities recorded 589 new daily deaths tied to the virus and 25,345 new infections.
The country’s overall rise in cases has however slowed since reaching a high on November 27, with officials resisting imposing lockdowns during a second wave of infections and instead opting for targeted regional curbs.
In line with that approach, authorities in St Petersburg, which reported 3,684 new cases in the past 24 hours, have ordered bars and restaurants to close from December 30 until January 3 in a bid to curtail virus transmission there, the RIA news agency reported.
Museums, theatres and concert halls will also be closed to the public in the city of more than five million people for the duration of Russia’s New Year holidays, which run from December 30 until January 10.