I took Russia’s Sputnik vaccine - but is it safe?

Moscow is promoting its vaccine all over the world, but back home, Russians remain sceptical

Oliver Carroll
Moscow Correspondent
Tuesday 05 January 2021 15:39 GMT
What do we know about Sputnik V?

In the ongoing global race for vaccine roll out, Vladimir Putin declared an early victory —licensing a Russian vaccine even before it had fully completed clinical trials.

The name for the new vaccine left little to the imagination. “Sputnik”, a reference to the Soviet’s first satellite in space, and a byword for Russian Cold War prestige. And “V”,  a shorthand for victory.

At the time, some scientists struggled to contain their laughter. But for the Russian leader, it was no joke. From the outset, the Kremlin has hung its star high over Sputnik V’s orbit.

The obvious political backdrop has rightly undermined many of the vaccine’s backers most confident assertions: from its world-beating, but ever-changing efficacy figures to this weekend’s barely credible claim to have vaccinated 800,000.  

Russians themselves are yet to be convinced by Mr Putin’s sales pitch. In a recent survey, just 38 per cent of them said they would take Sputnik if offered.  But beyond the politics, what do we actually know about Sputnik? Is it safe? Is it effective? Can it save Russia from a winter of Covid-19 calamity?

This is a fully-immersed — or injected — attempt to find out.

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