Kremlin: Pressure on countries to refuse Russian COVID-19 vaccine 'quite unprecedented'

Kremlin: Pressure on countries to refuse Russian COVID-19 vaccine 'quite unprecedented'
© Greg Nash

A Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that there is "unprecedented" pressure on countries to reject Russia's Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine. 

Reuters reported that Dmitry Peskov made the comments at a press conference after being asked about reports that the U.S. was pressuring countries to not accept imports of the Russian vaccine.

“In many countries, the scale of pressure is quite unprecedented ... such selfish attempts to force countries to abandon any vaccines have no prospects,” Peskov said, according to the news service.

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“We believe that there should be as many doses of vaccines as possible so that all countries, including the poorest, have the opportunity to stop the pandemic,” he added.

Details about the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Governmental Affairs (OGA) to pressure countries to not accept vaccines manufactured in Russia were first released in the agency's annual report in January in a section entitled "combatting malign influences in the Americas."

"OGA used diplomatic relations in the Americas region to mitigate efforts by states, including Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia, who are working to increase their influence in the region to the detriment of US safety and security," read the HHS report.

"Examples include using OGA’s Health Attaché office to persuade Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, and offering CDC technical assistance in lieu of Panama accepting an offer of Cuban doctors," it continued.

The report drew condemnation on Monday from a Twitter account managed by the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia's Ministry of Health, which oversaw development of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

"We believe countries should work together to save lives. Efforts to undermine the vaccines are unethical and are costing lives," read a tweet from the account.

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In a statement to The Hill, a State Department official contended that it was in the U.S.'s best interest to see as many people around the world vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

"We encourage foreign governments to rigorously assess any vaccine candidate for safety, efficacy, and good manufacturing practices before deployment. Any actions to encourage premature regulatory authorizations and to distribute vaccines without sufficient clinical data to demonstrate safety and compelling evidence of efficacy undermine the integrity of the scientific process and do not serve the public interest," the spokesperson said.

"It is in the U.S. government’s interest to support the rapid distribution of as many vaccines ​deemed safe and effective by stringent regulatory authorities as possible in order to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic," they added.

--Updated at 10:00 p.m.