Russia's Sputnik vaccine 'as reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle' says Vladimir Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova via video conference at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. - Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova via video conference at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. - Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

President Vladimir Putin insisted Russia's homegrown coronavirus vaccine was as “reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle”, as the country’s health officials authorised a single-dose version of the Sputnik V jab, dubbed Sputnik Light.

Sputnik V, which in February was revealed to be 92 per cent effective, has been approved for emergency use in 64 countries but has yet to be authorised in the European Union.

Apart from Sputnik V, Russia has also developed and registered two other coronavirus vaccines but their clinical data have not been through a stringent peer review as Sputnik’s.

“Our vaccines draw from technology and platforms that have been in operation for decades,” Putin told a video conference with top Russian officials in charge of the pandemic response.

“They are as reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle as one European specialist said.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova via video conference at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. - Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova via video conference at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. - Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Mr Putin was referring to comments made by an Austrian doctor back in February.

"Sputnik V is like a Kalashnikov rifle, a Russian rifle: simple, reliable and effective," Florian Thalhammer, from the Medical University of Vienna, reportedly told Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung.

While the vaccine’s efficacy data has been good, there have been questions about quality control during production. In April, officials in Slovakia said that a batch of doses the country had received did not match those sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or elsewhere and that Russia failed to provide enough data on the jab.

Despite not yet being approved for use by the EMA, some EU countries have ordered it anyway, including Hungary, while Italy has signed a deal to manufacture the jab domestically.

Slovakia’s prime minister was forced to resign after secretly ordering two million doses.

The Sputnik V and Sputnik Light vaccines, like the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs, use a genetically modified common cold virus to deliver the gene of the coronavirus to the body.

The developers of Sputnik Light argue that the single-dose vaccine provides sufficient protection at least for the short term and can serve as a significant tool against the pandemic.

Sputnik V is widely available in Russia, especially in urban centres like Moscow and St Petersburg, but the uptake has been sluggish: only about 10 per cent of Russians have received at least one dose of the jab by early May.

Russia on Friday recorded 8,386 new coronavirus cases and 376 new deaths as the country has yet to hit a third wave of infection.

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