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11 Feb, 2021 09:27

Is shunning Moscow more urgent for Ukraine's leaders than saving lives? Kiev BANS Russian Covid-19 vaccines, despite jab shortage

Is shunning Moscow more urgent for Ukraine's leaders than saving lives? Kiev BANS Russian Covid-19 vaccines, despite jab shortage

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have already died of Covid-19. Despite this, the country’s government has announced a new ban on safe and efficacious vaccines that could potentially put an end to the deadly pandemic.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Denis Shmigal signed a formal decree legally preventing Russian-made coronavirus vaccines from being registered for use in the country. Moscow had previously offered Ukraine access to at least two of its formulas, including Sputnik V which has already got the green light for use in 24 separate nations and is under consideration by the EU. One of the bloc’s members, Hungary, has already jumped the gun and permitted it for domestic use.

In the new order, Kiev says that the registration of vaccines and other treatments for preventing Covid-19 is “prohibited” if their development or production is “carried out in a country recognized by the Parliament of Ukraine as an aggressor state.” Russia is listed as an “aggressor state” in the corresponding document.

Also on rt.com Lancet publishes Sputnik V Phase III clinical trial data, showing Russian Covid-19 vaccine is 91%+ effective

Earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to justify a block on access to Russian jabs, claiming that Ukrainians should not become “rabbits” to be “experimented upon.” His reservations were about Sputnik V, despite conclusive trial data published in The Lancet medical journal last week demonstrating that the formula is safe, and is effective in more than 90 percent of cases.

Ukrainians seeking immunization will instead be forced to wait until Kiev can secure sufficient supplies from a nation its leaders consider more politically palatable. Zelensky has previously expressed frustration with a lack of support from the US in getting hold of jabs. 

“Of course, it is impossible to explain to Ukrainian society why, when America and Europe are not giving you vaccines, you shouldn't take vaccines from Russia,” the president said in an interview with the New York Times.

Also on rt.com Ukraine's Zelensky warns he cannot justify rejecting Russia's Sputnik V unless West supplies Kiev with other Covid-19 vaccines

In analysis published by Bloomberg at the end of January, Ukraine was singled out as one of only a few countries in Europe that have not yet begun immunizations, as its supplies of the jab “either haven’t been cleared for use or haven’t arrived.” By contrast, injections have already begun in the Donbass region, which is under the control of separatists who have sought support from Moscow.

Ukraine has pinned its hopes on the international COVAX initiative, which is doling out vaccines free of charge to economically disadvantaged countries. Around 190 nations such as Afghanistan, Namibia and Ukraine are in line for supplies. However, earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed hope that Sputnik V would become one of the formulas supplied as part of the program.

Since the first Covid-19 cases were detected in the country in March, Ukraine has seen 1.3 million people test positive, although the true number is likely to be far higher. Kiev says more than 25,000 people have succumbed to the virus, but it is almost certain that many more have passed away as a result.

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