Russia Claims Foreign Interests Funding Campaign Against Dubious Coronavirus Vaccine

A nurse prepares to inoculate volunteer Ilya Dubrovin, 36, with Russia's new coronavirus vaccine in a post-registration trials at a clinic in Moscow on September 10, 2020. - Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named "Sputnik V" after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in …
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov claimed Friday that unnamed foreign interests are funding a scurrilous campaign to discredit Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine candidate.

In a statement posted on the Defense Ministry website, Konashenkov said 100,000 Russian troops would receive the Sputnik V vaccine candidate by the end of the year.

After discussing at length how the vaccine candidate would be stored, shipped, and administered to the troops, and claiming it has proven safe and effective in testing, Konashenkov said no military personnel has refused to take Sputnik V even though a lavishly-funded propaganda campaign to discredit the treatment has supposedly been launched by hostile foreign interests:

At the same time, we know in detail what funds and resources are thrown from abroad to discredit the domestic vaccine in the world and in Russia.

A series of pseudo-analytical “investigations” and false testimonies of “eyewitnesses” about the alleged “danger” of the Russian vaccine or general “refusals” to vaccinate, including in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, are being prepared in social networks and Russian-language Internet resources funded by foreign grants.

We are convinced that this information sabotage will in no way weaken the high efficiency of Russian vaccines. And it certainly will not enhance the “healing” of foreign analogues.

Reporting on Konashenkov’s remarks, Russia’s state-run Tass news service described Sputnik V as “the world’s first coronavirus vaccine” and said, “interim research results” showed it to be 95 percent effective against the Wuhan coronavirus.

The Moscow Times suggested Konashenkov’s unusual statement could be an effort to distract from the “scaling” issues Russia’s state health institute is facing with Sputnik V — in other words, trouble manufacturing and distributing enough of the vaccine, coupled with lingering concerns about its effectiveness and safety that do not originate entirely outside Russia’s borders.

“Russian scientists have raised concerns this fall over the ‘ridiculous’ race to vaccinate high-risk groups amid ongoing clinical trials and at the expense of scientific research standards,” the Moscow Times noted. 

“The vaccine is currently in Phase 3 trials involving 40,000 volunteers, with developers vowing to publish interim results soon amid compounding worries over safety and poor standards under the Kremlin’s close watch,” the report added.

Tass reported on Friday that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed the Defense Ministry’s allegations of a foreign campaign to undermine Sputnik V:

These aspirations [to discredit the Russian vaccine] are seen not only in the Kremlin. They are visible to the naked eye, as they say,” he insisted. According to Peskov, “competition is fierce.” “It is good when this competition is fair, and for that matter there shouldn’t be much competition in this market,” he stressed. He noted that “this is a whole different ballgame since competition here is being politicized, and dirty tricks are being used to discredit the vaccine.”

Peskov stressed that Russia’s first coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V was “reliable, good and eagerly sought after.” “Some countries and their large pharmaceutical companies indeed stoop to disreputable methods at times in order to prevent the appearance of our vaccine in various countries, and this is well known,” the Kremlin spokesman emphasized.

Peskov, like Konashenkov, did not specify exactly which countries and pharmaceutical companies are supposedly trying to sabotage the Russian vaccine candidate.

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