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Moscow to open vaccine centres on Saturday as mass vaccination programme begins

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Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Moscow will open its COVID-19 vaccination centres on Saturday, marking the start of Russia's mass vaccination programme, the city's mayor said.

Teachers, doctors and social workers have already started to receive the Sputnik V vaccine and will be prioritised as the shot is rolled out, according to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

Residents in the capital will be able to register for the jab online starting from Friday.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale mass immunisation programme on Wednesday in an effort to get as many Russians vaccinated as possible. People in the country will be able to receive the vaccine free of charge on a voluntary basis.

But there are still questions over Russia's ability to mass-produce the vaccine and it is likely that only essential workers will be able to receive it for the time being.

Health minister Mikhail Murashko added that more than 100,000 people have already been given the shot. Some 25,000 others received the vaccine during its clinical trial.

Last week, Russia claimed that Sputnik V has more than 95 per cent efficacy according to preliminary data, making it comparable to vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

The two-shot Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. A study involving 40,000 volunteers was announced two weeks after the vaccine gained government approval. But the trial to determine its safety and efficacy is still ongoing.

Numerous countries have expressed interest in studying or buying the vaccine, although few western countries have signed up. Hungary is the only EU country to have indicated a willingness to purchase doses of it.

Russia has resisted a full lockdown but still reported 28,145 new infections on Thursday, the highest daily case count since the start of the pandemic. The worst-hit area is Moscow which recorded 7,750 new cases.