MOSCOW • Moscow began distributing the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine via 70 clinics yesterday, marking Russia's first mass vaccination against the disease, the city's coronavirus task force said.
The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.
"You are working at an educational institution and have top priority for the Covid-19 vaccine, free of charge," read a text message received by one Muscovite, an elementary school teacher, early yesterday and seen by Reuters.
Moscow, the epicentre of Russia's coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before and well above the daily tallies of around 700 seen in early September.
"Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab - teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his personal website on Friday.
The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60. People with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a respiratory illness for the past two weeks are barred from vaccination.
Russia has developed two Covid-19 vaccines - Sputnik V, which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, and another developed by Siberia's Vector Institute, with final trials for both yet to be completed.
Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy have been completed.
The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose expected to be given 21 days after the first.
Separately, Bahrain announced it had approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, becoming the second country after Britain to green-light the drug.
"The approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will add a further important layer to the kingdom's national Covid-19 response," said National Health Regulatory Authority chief executive Mariam al-Jalahma, according to a statement carried by the official Bahrain News Agency on Friday.
Manama did not specify when it would begin the vaccine roll-out.
On Wednesday, Britain said it approved the Covid-19 vaccine for general use.
The first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in England are expected tomorrow, while Wales and Northern Ireland will begin on Tuesday.
In the United States, companies are gearing up for a massive logistical effort to aid vaccine distribution.
Carmaker Ford has ordered its own freezers, while meat processing giant Smithfield said it is ready to put the cold room at its abattoirs at the disposal of vaccine roll-out operations.
Companies specialising in insulating containers have been on a war footing for weeks after Pfizer and BioNTech said the vaccine they had jointly developed needs to be stored at minus 70 deg C.
US logistics giant UPS is already producing 500kg of dry ice an hour in its depots and has developed portable freezers.
Meanwhile, US refrigerator manufacturer So-Low reported a "tremendous surge" in orders for its freezers that can maintain temperatures as low as minus 84 deg C.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE