Moscow vaccinates workers at risk

WHO warns virus crisis not over as vaccine rollout approaches

Agence France-Presse . Moscow/ Washington | Published: 23:25, Dec 05,2020


A nurse administers a dose of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to a woman at a clinic in Moscow on Saturday. - AFP photo

Moscow on Saturday began vaccinating workers at high risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus at newly opened clinics across the city.

Health officials said they had opened 70 coronavirus vaccine centres in the Russian capital that would initially offer jabs for health, education and social workers.

‘Citizens from the main risk groups who in  connection with their professional activities come into contact with a large number of people can get vaccinated,’ officials said.

Russia was one of the first countries to announce the development of a vaccine, Sputnik V — dubbed after the Soviet-era satellite — in August but before beginning final clinical trials.

It is currently in its third and final stage of clinical trials involving some 40,000 volunteers.

Sputnik V’s developers last month said interim results had shown the vaccine was 95-per cent effective and would be cheaper and easier to store than some alternatives.

The jab uses two different human adenovirus vectors and is administered in two doses with a 21-day gap.

The vaccine will be free to all Russian citizens and innoculation will be voluntary.

Health officials on Saturday said that during the initial rollout in Moscow the jab would not be available to workers over 60, those with chronic diseases, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

They did not say when the vaccine would be available to the wider public.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has warned that vaccines will be no magic bullet for the coronavirus crisis as nations gear up for a massive rollout to tackle surging infections.

The word of caution comes as the United States clocked a record number of Covid-19 cases for a second day in a row, with the country preparing for what US president-elect Joe Biden has called a ‘dark winter’.

America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended ‘universal face mask use’ indoors and Biden said he would scale down his January inauguration ceremony to mitigate the virus risk.

It comes as countries prepare for the approval and rollout of several vaccines that have proven effective in trials.

The WHO however warned against vaccine complacency on Friday and what it said was an erroneous belief that the COVID-19 crisis is over with jabs on the horizon.

‘Vaccines do not equal zero COVID,’ said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan, adding that not everyone will be able to receive it early next year.

‘Vaccination will add a major, major, powerful tool to the tool kit that we have. But by themselves, they will not do the job.’

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said progress on vaccines signaled ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’

But he cautioned against the ‘growing perception that the pandemic is over’ with the virus still spreading fast, putting enormous pressure on hospitals and health care workers.

The WHO says 51 candidate vaccines are currently being tested on humans, with 13 reaching final-stage mass testing.

Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve an inoculation, from Pfizer-BioNTech, for general use, piling pressure on other countries to swiftly follow suit.

The United States is expected to give a green light later this month.

Belgium, France and Spain have said jabs will begin in January for the most vulnerable.

With the imminent arrival of vaccines that need storage at ultra-low temperatures, US companies are preparing for a massive logistical effort to aid their distribution.

Firms specialising in insulating containers are on a war footing after Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 Celsius).

Meat processing giant Smithfield said it was ready to put the cold rooms at its abattoirs at the disposal of rollout operations.

And US logistics giant UPS is producing 1,100 pounds of dry ice an hour in its depots and has developed portable freezers capable of storing the vaccines at temperatures down to -112 Fahrenheit.

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