President Vladimir Putin told Russians on Wednesday to get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid a wave of cases and said for the first time that he had received Russia’s Sputnik V shot.
The Kremlin had previously said that Putin, 68, received a two-dose vaccine in March and April, but it gave no further details and did not release images of him getting it.
That lack of publicity came under the spotlight this month as officials complained about the slow uptake for COVID-19 shots, which are readily available, and began trying to coax and compel people to get inoculated.
Putin used his annual televised phone-in session on Wednesday to cast Russia’s four vaccines as highly effective and safe, while taking a swipe at shots that are widely used in the West.
He told Russians that 23 million people had been vaccinated out of a population of more than 144 million.
“As you can see, everything is in order, and thank God we don’t have such tragic situations after vaccinations like AstraZeneca or Pfizer,” he said.
Putin was asked which shot he had had.
He said he had been asked not to reveal its name so as not to give the product a competitive advantage, but went on to say it was Sputnik V. Moscow has not approved any foreign vaccines.
“I thought that I needed to be protected for as long as possible. So I chose to be vaccinated with Sputnik V. The military is getting vaccinated with Sputnik V, and after all I’m the commander-in-chief,” he said.
“After the first shot, I didn’t feel anything at all. About four hours later, there was some tenderness where I had the shot. I did the second at midday. At midnight, I measured my temperature. It was 37.2 (Celsius). I went to sleep, woke up and my temperature was 36.6. That was it.
“I don’t support mandatory vaccination, and I continue to hold this point of view.”
The Kremlin said this week that Russia would fall short of its goal to vaccinate 60% of Russians by the autumn because uptake was so low.
Russia reported 669 coronavirus-related deaths nationwide on Wednesday, the highest official daily total since the pandemic began. It also confirmed 21,042 new cases in the previous 24 hours, including 5,823 in Moscow.
Officials have blamed the surge in cases on the Delta variant.
Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin.EPA-EFE/ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL