Russian President Vladimir Putin received a Covid-19 vaccination on Tuesday without fuss or fanfare according to the Kremlin, more than three months after qualifying to do so.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN: “Putin was vaccinated against the coronavirus. (He) feels good. Tomorrow he has a full working day.”
No video or images of the vaccination process were immediately made available. Earlier, the Kremlin said it would not be a public event, unusual for a Russian leader who frequently poses for the cameras – sometimes shirtless.
Earlier on Tuesday, Peskov said that the reason the vaccination was not being recorded was because Putin “doesn’t like” being vaccinated on camera, before adding, “you will have to take our word for it.”
When asked why the Russian leader is not planning to show his vaccination process for publicity, Peskov said Putin does a lot to promote getting vaccinated, adding: “The President devotes a fairly significant part of his working time to events, talks, meetings related to vaccination, vaccine production, and so on and so forth.
“As for vaccination under the cameras, he has never been a supporter [of it], he doesn’t like it,” Peskov said.
The Kremlin spokesman also said the type of vaccine used will not be revealed, but did say that it will be one of the three Russian vaccines that have been approved: Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona or CoviVac.
“We deliberately do not say what kind of vaccine the president will take, all the while noting that all three Russian vaccines are absolutely reliable and effective,” Peskov said.
On Tuesday, social media sites were brimming with mockery that the Russian leader may not have the vaccine at all, with jibes about the Kremlin strongman being scared of needles, or even anxious to hide a new tattoo.
Behind the banter, however, is an exasperation among some officials that Russia’s most prominent figure – and one to whom many Russians look for guidance – first seemed reluctant to get a jab, despite qualifying for vaccination since late December.
Now it seems Putin may have bungled a golden opportunity to encourage hesitant Russians to get inoculated.
A recent opinion poll by the Levada Center – an independent, non-governmental polling and sociological research organization – suggests only around 30% of the country’s population is in favor of being vaccinated.
Such high rates of vaccine hesitancy have been linked to a historic distrust by Russians of their medical establishment.
There’s also wide suspicion in the country about the efficacy of its three homegrown vaccines, one of which – Sputnik V – was developed at breakneck speed.
In August, Sputnik V became the first approved Covid-19 vaccine anywhere in the world.
That dash to win the global vaccine race however, sparked wide concern that corners were cut in its development, despite peer-reviewed trial results that have now shown that Sputnik V is safe and effective.
In February, the shot was found 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 and 100% effective against severe and moderate disease, in an interim analysis of the vaccine’s Phase 3 trial results published in The Lancet.
Still, the number of Russians so far inoculated remains staggeringly low: fewer than 7 million have had at least one jab out of a population close to 146 million, according to latest official figures.
That’s not the case in Latin America, however, where Sputnik V has seen rising popularity across the region as more countries announce shipments and deals to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine.
At least nine Latin American countries so far have approved usage of the Sputnik V vaccine – Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela – and distribution of the vaccine has also begun in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela.
Globally, the vaccine has been approved in at least 56 countries, including European Union countries such as Hungary and Slovakia according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which funded the vaccine production and is responsible for selling it globally.