Putin opens Russia up for ‘vaccine tourism’ with foreign visitors paying for a jab as he hits out at countries refusing to buy Sputnik for ‘political reasons’
- Putin touted ‘vaccine tourism’ at annual economic conference in St Petersburg
- He also claimed some countries were swerving Sputnik V for political reasons
- ‘I know that [foreign] demand is pretty high,’ the 68-year-old told the forum
- Officials have been told to prepare to welcome vaccine tourists from July
Vladimir Putin has told officials to prepare to open Russia for ‘vaccine tourism’ where foreigners can pay for the Sputnik V jab.
The president, who says the vaccine is as reliable as a Kalashnikov rifle, also claimed that some countries were avoiding the Russian-made jabs for ‘political reasons.’
Speaking at the annual economic conference in St Petersburg, Putin said: ‘Taking into account the efficiency of our vaccines, I know that [foreign] demand is pretty high.’
‘The domestic pharmaceutical industry is ready to further ramp up vaccine production,’ the 68-year-old added.
Kirill Dmitriyev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which finances the vaccine, said at the forum that Russia could become open for ‘vaccine tourism’ from July.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the International Economic Forum, known as the Russian Davos, in St. Petersburg on Friday
Russia has approved four vaccines for domestic use, of which the most widely used is Sputnik V. Administered in two doses, with a gap of 21 days between each shot, it was the world’s first Covid vaccine in August 2020.
Named after the world’s first satellite launched by the USSR in 1957, Sputnik has been touted by Putin as ‘the world’s best’ jab, while leading independent medical journal, The Lancet, deemed it effective in a study published in February.
The Kremlin said that Putin had been vaccinated in private but it is not known which of Russia’s three main jabs he had used.
Putin also took the opportunity on Friday to encourage all Russians to come forward to receive their free vaccines.
‘Every adult citizen of Russia has the opportunity to get vaccinated completely free of charge,’ Putin told the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, which is often called the Russian Davos.
‘I’d like to ask our citizens to use this opportunity to protect themselves and their loved ones.’
A Venezuelan man receives the Russian Sputnik V jab in Caracas on Thursday
The 68-year-old leader said that Russian authorities had not registered a single fatality linked to the coronavirus vaccine.
He reiterated that he himself had been vaccinated and that the jabs have few side effects.
‘I have first-hand knowledge of that,’ Putin said.
Putin said that Russia’s main vaccine, Sputnik V, had already been registered in 66 countries with a combined population of more than three billion people.