• The Financial District


Russian doctors and teachers do not want to be vaccinated with the Sputnik-V vaccine that President Vladimir Putin said was approved on August 11, 2020 despite not being subjected to Phase 3 trials and failing to secure approval from the World Health Organization.

Reporting for CNN late on September 6, 2020, Zahra Ullah and Anna Chernova interviewed teachers about getting vaccinated with Sputnik-V and noted that the vaccine was practically railroaded to make it appear that Russia won the race for a vaccine against COVID-19. Sputnik-V was developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, a small research institution not noted for immunological research.

A Russian teachers' union, "Uchitel," started an online petition calling on members to reject the vaccine outright on safety grounds, and expressing concern that vaccination -- currently voluntary -- should not be made mandatory unless clinical trials are complete. Yuri Varlamov, a teacher in Moscow and a member of the union, said he doesn't want to take the vaccine because he doesn't believe it is safe right now. "Before the end of trials, they cannot make it mandatory. But I know that in some schools and state bodies, people are talking about mandatory status of this vaccine by the end of this year," Varlamov said. Marina Balouyeva, co-chairman of the "Uchitel" union, said a petition against compulsory vaccination for teachers was more of a precaution. Balouyeva said she is wary of Sputnik-V for several reasons. "Firstly, it is generally known that the quality of domestic vaccines is worse than that of foreign ones," she said. "Secondly, the vaccine was created at railway speed, which already raises concerns. It was created in haste."

Critics like Anastasia Vasilyeva, a Russian doctor and an ally of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, says the country's push for a vaccine comes amid political pressure from the Kremlin, which is keen to portray Russia as a global scientific force. "I think it's to show Russia is a big strong country, that Putin is a big strong president," Vasilyeva told CNN. Her colleague, a surgeon at a hospital in northeast Moscow, shared his concerns about the vaccine with CNN, strictly on the condition of anonymity, due to fear of facing repercussions at work. When offered the vaccine in early August, he started consulting with experts. "I am not a vaccine specialist," he admits, "So, I called the doctors who deal with vaccinations, I called immunologists. They said, 'don't do it, by no means, the vaccine is raw.'" The surgeon asked: "Explain to me: how could it be that such powerful European and international organizations could not do it, but a relatively small Gamaleya Institute could? I cannot understand it."

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