Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered health officials to start widespread vaccinations against coronavirus next week, adding the country has produced close to 2 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine.
He said the primary focus should be the “vaccination of the two risk groups: of doctors and teachers”.
The step comes after the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for widespread use.
Last week, Russia announced that interim test results showed the Sputnik V vaccine was almost 92 per cent effective, a higher efficacy than its international competitors.
Sputnik V, named after the Soviet-era satellite, is in its third and final stage of clinical trials involving 40,000 volunteers.
Health minister Mikhail Murashko said to date more than 1,00,000 Russian citizens had already been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, in India, phase 2/3 clinical trials for Sputnik V have commenced.
Earlier, the UK government had said frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be first in line to get vaccinated, followed by older adults.
Pfizer Inc had made headlines with their announcement in November claiming its Covid-19 vaccine with partner BioNTech was 95 per cent effective in the final analysis based on clinical trials data.
Britain has established three routes to get the vaccine out to the country, a programme it has described as “challenging” because it needs to be shipped and stored at -70°C (-94°F) or below.
However, other countries aren’t far behind. The US and the European Union are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc.
Vaccine is seen as the best chance for the world to get back to some semblance of normality amid a global pandemic which has killed nearly 1.5 million people and upended the global economy.