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20 Jan, 2021 15:39

Kremlin says Covid-19 vaccine shortfall in Russian regions due to logistical difficulties presented by country’s ‘vast geography’

Kremlin says Covid-19 vaccine shortfall in Russian regions due to logistical difficulties presented by country’s ‘vast geography’

Shortages in the supply of coronavirus jabs in some parts of Russia are down to problems moving vials around the world’s largest country, the Kremlin has suggested, despite successes shipping doses far overseas.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the challenges were primarily logistical. “Of course, this comes down to the vast geography of our country,” he said.

International consignments of the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, have been sent overseas, often with foreign governments sending planes to collect doses. Internal movement across Russia, which spans two continents, however, appears more challenging.

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However, at the same time, Peskov added that “we are talking about growing the process of manufacturing both components of the vaccine. It is a very large-scale task and, of course, it cannot be excluded that, given the growing demand, temporary difficulties might arise.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Alexey Dobrovolsky, the director of the health department in the remote Ural region of Khanty-Mansi, told the TASS newswire that the authorities had suspended the local vaccination program after running out of vials. He said the last 10 doses available would be used imminently by three hospitals. Moscow, which was the first city to receive supplies, is thought to be furthest ahead with its plan to immunize its citizens.

However, Denis Manturov, the head of Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade was quick to insist that 70 million doses of the domestically made Sputnik V jab would be dispatched to Russia’s regions by June. In comments to a YouTube news channel, he insisted that, “in general, we understand that the volume of production of our sites – and there are six of them – allows us to fully meet the demands of the healthcare system without needing to import supplies from abroad.” He added that work was underway to increase manufacturing capacity still further.

Russia has already exported thousands of doses overseas to fill orders from foreign governments, both to support mass immunization programs and for research and testing. Countries that have received shipments include fellow European nations such as Hungary and Belarus, as well as those further afield like India, Brazil, and Argentina.

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