“It’s like the space race half a century later. If indeed it’s a success story and Russia is the first country to come up with an efficient vaccine then of course it’s a major PR opportunity,” said Andrey Kortunov, who runs the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow.
But first, Russia has to prove that Sputnik V, produced by the Gamaleya, part of the country’s ministry of health, actually works. In early September, Gamaleya scientists published the results of phase one and two trials in the Lancet, and a phase three trial is now under way, which should involve 40,000 volunteers being vaccinated in the coming weeks. Even at this early stage, however, the government is pushing ahead with ambitious plans for a broad rollout across the country and beyond.
While there is clearly one eye on global glory, producing a successful vaccine will also be welcome at home, given Russia has recorded the fourth-highest number of Covid cases in the world. A second wave is well under way, with the number of new cases rising dramatically in recent days. On Monday, Putin appealed to Russians to take “maximum responsibility” for their behaviour and try to minimise the Covid risks.