MOSCOW (NewsNation Now) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered authorities to begin mass voluntary vaccinations against COVID-19 next week.
Russia will have produced 2 million vaccine doses within the next few days, Putin said. Russia said last month that its Sputnik V jab was 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 according to interim results.
“Let’s agree on this – you will not report to me next week, but you will start mass vaccination…let’s get to work already,” Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova.
Golikova said large-scale vaccination could begin on a voluntary basis in December.
The Kremlin earlier gave assurances that Russians were first in line to be vaccinated, with Moscow also discussing supply deals with other countries.
“The absolute priority are Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.”
With more than 2.3 million infections, Russia has the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Authorities in St Petersburg, which reported 3,684 new infections on Wednesday, ordered bars and restaurants to close from Dec. 30 until Jan. 3, to combat the rise in cases there, the RIA news agency reported.
Museums, theatres and concert halls would be closed to the public in the city of more than 5 million people for the duration of Russia’s New Year holidays, from Dec. 30 to Jan. 10.
Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said more than 100,000 people had already been vaccinated against COVID-19, as Moscow presented its Sputnik V vaccine to the United Nations over video link.
Also on Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they won permission for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, a major step towards eventually ending the pandemic.
Every country has different rules for determining when an experimental vaccine is safe and effective enough to use. Intense political pressure to be the first to roll out a rigorously scientifically tested shot colored the race in the U.S. and Britain, even as researchers pledged to cut no corners. In contrast, China and Russia have offered different vaccinations to their citizens ahead of late-stage testing.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.