Belarus begins administering Russian COVID-19 vaccine

FILE PHOTO: A view shows vials during the production of Gam-COVID-Vac, also known as Sputnik-V, vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a facility of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Belarus has begun administering the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, both countries said on Tuesday, after the first consignment arrived in Minsk.

Last week, many Russians expressed anger on social media after 300,000 doses of the vaccine were dispatched to Argentina, when only 650,000 had been administered in Russia by Dec. 24, according to the developer, the Gamaleya Institute.

Belarus expects to vaccinate around 200,000 people with Sputnik V in the first stage of its national programme, health minister Dmitry Pinevich said last week.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is marketing the vaccine abroad, declined to comment on how many doses had been dispatched to Belarus.

RDIF signed an agreement in November with the Belarusian pharmaceutical company Belpharmprom to prepare for the future production of Sputnik V in Belarus.

Russia has officially reported some 56,000 deaths from over 3.1 million coronavirus infections among its 144 million people, although Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said on Monday that 81% of ‘excess deaths’ this year should be attributed to the coronavirus - at least 186,000.

Belarus has reported around 1,400 deaths from COVID-19 and 190,000 cases among its 9.5 million population.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Kevin Liffey