MOSCOW (Reuters) -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 has came under the spotlight as officials concerned about slow uptake to coax or compel people to get the COVID-19 shots, which are readily available.
Putin used his annual televised phone-in 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.
“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, adding that 23 million of Russia’s more than 144 million population had been vaccinated.
Asked which shot he’d had, Putin 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,” Putin said.
SHOTS FOR MIGRANTS
Russia launched its inoculation programme in January with the aim of vaccinating 60% of the population by the autumn, but the Kremlin said this week low uptake meant it would fall short of that target.
This week, Moscow began offering the one-dose Sputnik Light shot to some of the millions of migrants, many from Central Asia, that work in the city. The 1,300 rouble ($18) cost of the vaccine will be charged to their employers.
“COVID is everywhere at the moment and I don’t want to get infected, so I wanted to get vaccinated,” said Usanboi, a chef from Uzbekistan, as he queued for a shot.
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.
($1 = 73.1317 roubles)
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Andrew Osborn and Gennday Novik; writing by Tom Balmforth and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Jonathan Oatis and Catherine Evans)