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Russia's Putin: COVID restrictions could be lifted by end of summer after 70% of people vaccinated

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo by TASS news agency)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he expected Russia to reach herd immunity to coronavirus and lift pandemic-related restrictions by the end of summer, the Interfax news agency reported on Sunday, citing his televised comments.

Speaking on Kremlin-controlled television, the Russian leader -- who received a jab a few days ago -- said that getting vaccinated was "needed, even necessary".

"If a person wants to feel confident, does not want to get sick and have serious consequences after an illness, then it is better to get this vaccine, of course," news agencies quoted Putin as saying on Rossiya-1.

Putin, who got vaccinated this week with a Russian-made vaccine, also said the only side effects he experienced were slight pain in his muscles the next morning and an uncomfortable feeling in the site of the injection.

The 68-year-old received his first dose on Tuesday, but did not reveal which of Russia's three home-grown jabs -- Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona or CoviVac -- he had been given.

Unlike many world leaders, Putin also chose to be vaccinated in private.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told news agencies late on Tuesday that Putin, who has never been media shy during his two decades in power, did not want to get a jab in front of the cameras.

Peskov said the Kremlin chief would receive one of three Russian vaccines, declining to specify which one "on purpose".

"All three Russian vaccines proved their effectiveness and reliability," Peskov said.

Russia has developed three vaccines -- Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac -- though most of the attention has focused on Sputnik, named after the first satellite launched into space by the Soviet Union.

Russia's vaccination campaign has been slower than in many countries but Peskov said Putin did not have to get vaccinated in public to encourage more Russians to get jabs.

Russia began its vaccination campaign in early December, but only about four million of the country's 144 million people have so far received two doses of a vaccine, while another two million have had a first dose.

Vaccine skepticism runs high in Russia, with a recent opinion poll showing fewer than a third of people are willing to have a jab, and close to two-thirds saying they believe the coronavirus is a man-made biological weapon.

The country has been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, with more than 4.5 million cases.

Official data have also shown that Russia has seen more than 200,000 virus-related deaths -- double the daily count published by an official coronavirus tally.

Russia has lifted nearly all epidemiological measures against the coronavirus, with health authorities saying that the worst of the pandemic passed over the winter.

Putin on Sunday said that the country would be able to end the rest of its restrictions when about 70 percent of Russian adults had been vaccinated against the virus.

He predicted that this would happen by the end of the summer.

(Source: Agencies)

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