MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is working on a program to offer people abroad the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Russia with their Sputnik V injection starting in July, the official vaccine Twitter account said.
So far, authorities have been skeptical about launching a program that allows foreigners to travel to Russia to receive the vaccine, saying it should target its own population.
The two-shot vaccine is available in Russia for its own citizens or for foreigners who have a residence or temporary residence permit.
“Vaccination against Sputnik V in Russia! Who is on board? The official English account of the shot wrote on Twitter on Thursday, posting a photograph of people next to a plane with Sputnik written on it.
He invited Twitter users to follow his account, saying: “Our social media followers will be the first to be invited to receive the #SputnikVaccinated vaccine in Russia when the program begins.”
“We are working to start this program in July,” he said.
Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which markets Sputnik V globally and runs the Twitter account, declined to elaborate.
A representative from RDIF said the fund would provide more details when such a program is launched.
“Call me Laika and get me on board this Sputnik!” One person responded to the tweets, referring to the first Russian dog in space. Some expressed doubts about the idea due to the pace of the vaccine program in Russia.
Russia had produced 20.1 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine as of March 17, while 4.3 million people out of a population of 144 million have received both injections since December.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko previously ruled out the idea of foreigners traveling to Russia to get vaccinated while the country vaccinates its own population.
“The priority for us is the vaccination of Russian citizens … We are not working on the issue of vaccination tourism at this stage,” said Murashko’s assistant Alexei Kuznetsov.
Report by Polina Nikolskaya; edited by Tom Balmforth and Barbara Lewis