President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Golikova. Good afternoon.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Golikova, we met before the holidays, and back then, based on a proposal made by the chief sanitary doctor, took a decision to extend the May holidays and drop the workdays between May 1 and May 9 to try to remove some of the risk of people travelling in public transport and thus contribute once again to decreasing the threat of spreading the coronavirus.
Overall, as I imagine and see things, including from your reports, the decision proved to be justified, and the morbidity rate in our country continues to fall. The number of new cases is going down whereas the number of recoveries is increasing. Testing is underway, and vaccination is continuing.
However, the information reaching me, unfortunately, shows that there are things that we need to consider and adjust, specifically, the number of tests have gone down in some regions lately as well as vaccination rates.
I would like to hear your opinion on the overall current developments around the coronavirus infection in Russia. This is number one. And second, I know that one more vaccine is ready for registration today – Sputnik Light. I would like you to comment on that and explain to me what it is.
Tatyana Golikova: Thank you, Mr President.
We are closely monitoring the epidemiological situation and compliance with restrictions in the regions in view of your decision to declare May 4 through May 7 non-working days, and we are also monitoring testing and vaccination in the regions, this is actually what you spoke about.
But first, a few words about the current epidemiological situation. As you have noted, it is stable. The weekly morbidity rate per 100,000 is 41.3 cases, the daily rate, at least in the past 24 hours, stands at 5.2 per 100,000 people. The biggest increases in new cases at 37 percent are in Moscow and St Petersburg, which is not surprising, we expected that. Besides, our colleagues are keeping the testing level fairly high and identifying new cases of the disease. The morbidity rate is on the decline in 32 regions, it is stable in 49 regions and there is some growth in four regions.
(Tatyana Golikova proceeded to discuss the age structure of the cases, and compliance with restrictions under the 2020 Presidential Executive Order on criteria for lifting restrictions. She also said that over 130 million tests had been carried out and 31.9 million doses of vaccines produced in Russia as of today. The top vaccine is Sputnik V followed by EpiVacCorona by the Vektor Novosibirsk Centre with the CoviVac vaccine by Chumakov Institute coming in third. As of now, 13.4 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine and 9.4 million have had the second one, that is, they are fully vaccinated.)
Now briefly about the Sputnik Light vaccine, which is to be registered today, you will remember that we discussed it a number of times as a possible alternative, as an additional vaccination option. Although the new Sputnik Light vaccine is, in fact, the same as the first dose of Sputnik V, it is also an alternative to it. It was designed to rapidly establish herd immunity in case of an unfavourable course of the epidemic. And it can also be used for people who have already been sick but have a low antibody count or no antibodies after an appropriate test. In any case, the designers believe that it can be effectively used. Obviously, additional monitoring will be carried out, however, our colleagues confirm that it can be effectively used.
I should probably add that the vaccine, as soon as it is authorised, will be used for people aged 18 to 60, and may enter commercial circulation after the price is registered and relevant approvals have been obtained from the federal executive bodies.
I have to add here that at present, the situation is under control, all support services, I mean the Ministry of Healthcare, Rospotrebnadzor and colleagues in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation are arranging the relevant processes in their territories in coordination with the work of the coronavirus infection response centre.
Besides, I might have omitted an important point. We hear, including from media reports, about the situation regarding the disease in different countries. I would like to say that as of now, testing is underway on the Russian border to check passengers from all countries, with which air traffic is permitted, so as to promptly identify cases and avoid importing the coronavirus into Russia.
Vladimir Putin: As for our foreign partners, the issue is certainly not a political one, and we continue to state this at all levels. This is an issue related exclusively to medical restrictions. We understand that such a situation is extremely risky for many countries where tourism is crucial for the overall economy, especially during the peak travel season.
I believe that, with the help of specialists and our colleagues in those countries, we will be able to closely monitor the real situation there and take respective decisions for our tourists. I mean we are definitely interested in people being able to travel freely and have a proper holiday.
To my knowledge, today’s situation requires certain adjustments, and I would like to address not only our colleagues in the Government of the Russian Federation but also the heads of the regions and management teams.
Yes, we did extend the May holidays; Russian citizens are enjoying themselves, and this is very good, thank God. But this is not a reason for regional management teams to relax or neglect the developments in their regions, there can be no doubt about this. Testing volumes, vaccination volumes and rates must not drop off in any region. The respective mobile laboratories must deployed be where the people are, and today it is largely farming communities, dacha townships and so on. This must be dealt with, and the sooner the better. Especially if our colleagues see declining vaccination and testing rates.
As for our vaccines, it is good to note that this suite of tools is expanding and specialists will recommend the new vaccines to those for whom they are indicated.
Regrettably, today we see that fighting between pharmaceutical companies on the global markets is on the increase. As far as I can tell, the global markets have decided to support the US Moderna vaccine, which the US-European company Pfizer is fighting. It is fighting and behaving in the market pretty aggressively. But these are their problems.
As far as I know, partly from reports by our specialists, our foreign colleagues in the US said it would be an entirely innovative vaccine, very modern, and I hope this is what it will be, God willing. But that will be clear only ten years from now, after many years of using it and analysing the results.
Currently, all our vaccines are known, and now Sputnik Light will be available shortly. Our vaccines are based on technologies and platforms that have been used for decades. They are also quite modern and are undoubtedly the safest and most reliable today. As one European specialist said, they are as dependable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle. We didn’t say that, a European specialist did. But I think that’s right: as simple and dependable as the Kalashnikov.
But we, among other things, are the only country in the world that is ready to transfer, and does transfer, vaccine production technology to other countries. This process is already underway; it is ongoing. In certain countries vaccine production was organised with technology we shared.
We hear there is an idea in Europe, which I believe deserves consideration, to lift the patent protection from COVID-19 vaccines altogether. As far as I know, this would not contravene but actually comply with certain WTO rules which envision lifting such patent protection in emergencies; and the pandemic is certainly an emergency.
This is why I am asking you, Ms Golikova, to look into this and work it out. Russia would support this approach given that, as I have said many times, under these conditions we should worry less about profits and more about ensuring people’s security. And health security is only possible if the vaccines are used in the overwhelming majority of nations. This will lead to herd immunity, a common immunity in the broadest sense of the word. This concerns everyone, including our country.
So I ask you to focus on what we talked about earlier, this effort in the Russian regions; and will you please also think about that initiative and report back to me later.
Thank you very much.
Tatyana Golikova: Mr President, we will do all of this. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. All the best to you.