President Vladimir Putin blasted claims that the EU doesn’t need a coronavirus vaccine developed by Russian scientists, hinting that Brussels may have been influenced by a shadowy influence campaign from Western drug companies.
Speaking at a government meeting about Covid-19 immunization programs on Monday, Putin said that he was surprised to hear negativity from a senior EU figure about the prospect of access to another formula. Brussels’ internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, claimed the day before that the bloc has “absolutely no need of Sputnik V.”
“When we hear such statements from officials,” Putin said, “the question arises – whose interests are protected and represented by these kinds of people? The interests of some pharmaceutical companies or citizens of European countries? What do they do? Lobbying?”
According to the president, 55 countries have already given the green light for vaccination with Sputnik V, which was developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, and deals have been signed for foreign manufacturers to produce 700 million doses.
At the same time, Putin said that he himself would receive a Covid-19 shot on Tuesday. “Vaccination is, of course, a voluntary choice for each person,” he added. “I’m intending to do it tomorrow myself.”
The Kremlin has declined to answer questions over which formula the president plans to receive, saying only that it would be one of the three domestically-made vaccines. As well as Sputnik V, two others are in use as part of Russia’s immunization program – EpiVacCorona and CoviVac. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters they are all “good and reliable.”
Russian officials have accused Western nations of politicizing the pandemic response. In December, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that some governments were working to “take advantage of the pandemic to punish governments they don’t like.”
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