MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was yet to be inoculated with the Russian-made vaccine against COVID-19 but that he would do so when possible.
Speaking at his annual news conference, Putin also said Russia needed to step up production of its Sputnik V vaccine and that some of its components could be made abroad.
Russia rolled out the Sputnik V jab to medics and other frontline workers in Moscow this month, and more than 200,000 people across the country have already been vaccinated.
“As for the need for mass or universal vaccination, I think this should be done... This is exactly what should create immunity in the population nationwide,” Putin said.
The Russian leader has gone to great lengths not to contract the novel coronavirus, running the world’s largest country mainly from his residence outside Moscow rather than working from the Kremlin.
But he said citizens in other age groups were receiving the Russian-made vaccine before he could have access to it.
“I am a fairly law-abiding person,” said Putin, 68, when asked if he had been inoculated against COVID-19. “I listen to the recommendations of our specialists. So I haven’t had the shot yet. But I will absolutely do it as soon as that becomes possible.”
He added: “Our vaccine is effective and safe, so I see no reason not to be vaccinated.”
Putin said he was confident that a plan for British drugmaker AstraZeneca to test a combination of its vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik V would yield results.
“Our foreign colleagues, thank God, have also turned to face us and are ready for cooperation in an area where something isn’t working out for them,” he said.
He said Russia needed to focus on stepping up production capacity by building factories, equipment and companies.
“Nothing is stopping us producing the components of the vaccine themselves at facilities in foreign states,” he added.
The marathon annual news conference, expected to last up to four hours, was dominated by questions about the pandemic from journalists and citizens in studios across Russia. Two hours in, with Putin still in full flow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged participants to change their masks.
Peskov said in June that the Russian leader was protected from the coronavirus by special disinfection tunnels that anyone visiting his residence or meeting him in the Kremlin must pass through.
Putin is regularly tested for the virus, Peskov has said.
Russia has recorded more than 2.7 million infections and 49,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Data published this week found the Sputnik V vaccine, which Russian regulators approved in August after less than two months of human testing, to be 91.4% effective.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Andrew Osborn and Anastasia Lyrchikova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan
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