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Russian President Vladimir Putin is hoping that Russia’s Sputnik-V-COVID-19 vaccine will soon receive World Health Organization approval, opening doors to travel freely for around 200 million people vaccinated with the vaccine.

During a video call on Sunday with Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Putin said the move was essential to increase global supplies, especially for countries in need.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.Credit:AP

“We intend to expand this aid,” said Putin.

The WHO has reviewed data on Sputnik V as part of its regulatory process and paved the way for the vaccination to join the COVAX program, which delivers COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world as needed.

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Putin’s comments come after Russia experienced its deadliest and largest coronavirus surge in recent months, with infections and deaths reaching new heights. More than 281,000 people in the country have so far succumbed to the virus, the highest death toll in Europe.

Russia was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine and launched Sputnik V in August 2020, but adoption has been slow.

Putin remains vigilant that vaccinations should remain voluntary, saying on Sunday that health officials are using “persuasion, not pressure” to encourage their uptake.

They also dispel “the prejudices and myths that drive aversion to vaccinations,” he said.

Putin himself was vaccinated with Sputnik V in the fall and received a booster dose of Sputnik Light and an experimental nasal version of the vaccine last month.

The Gamaleya Institute, the developer of the vaccine, has announced that it will start adapting the vaccine to the new Omicron strain of the virus immediately. Adding current versions of the vaccination should still provide protection against the variant.

The vaccination problems come at a politically challenging time for Putin, overshadowed by low approval rates and growing tensions on the Ukrainian border.

Russia plans to deploy 175,000 soldiers near Ukraine by early next year, which Western officials fear it could mark the start of an invasion.

With AP

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