RIGA - Russia and China are using the Covid-19 vaccines developed by their scientists to increase their influence elsewhere in the world, Janis Sarts, director of the Riga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (NATO StratCom), said in an interview with TV3 channel on Tuesday.
He said that there is currently a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in the world and that they are still unavailable in many parts of the world. In this situation, anyone who can offer these scarce goods has certain advantages, the expert said.
"China is doing this quite a lot in Africa and other countries, and of course, Russia is doing this as well, including in some European Union member states," Sarts said, calling this "vaccine diplomacy".
The head of the NATO StratCom indicated that Russia has involved media in promoting its Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus and that this message has reached certain groups of Latvia's society.
"Of course, they are targeting the part of society that has already heard on Russian TV channels about the good qualities of the Sputnik vaccine, which might be true. But my objections are to [the Russian media reports] claiming that the Western vaccines are bad," Sarts said, urging people to base their vaccination decisions primarily on scientific considerations, not the vaccine's country of origin.
As reported, Rezekne City Council is calling on Health Minister Daniels Pavluts (For Development/For) to consider the opportunity of making the Russia-developed Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V available for vaccinating Latvia's residents as soon as the vaccine is approved by the European Medicines Agency, the municipality informed LETA.
Harmony party won a majority at the Rezekne City Council during the last local elections. A letter to Pavluts, signed by Rezekne Mayor Aleksandrs Bartasevics (Harmony), says that Rezekne Social Service has started drawing up priority vaccination lists and found out that only about a third of residents in Rezekne nursing homes are willing to get immunized. The local government has determined that most of those who have refused to get vaccinated said that they would only agree to get vaccinated with Sputnik V.
Rezekne City Council believes that the vaccination process must not be politicized and public health is the number one priority, therefore using the Sputnik V vaccine would be logical to increase the vaccination capacity.
Latgale residents have been remarkably skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccines. For instance, only a small part of employees at Daugavpils Hospital were willing to get vaccinated initially, even though Covid-19 incidence rate in Daugavpils was among the highest in Latvia at the time. The hospital's head said that this could be due to disinformation being circulated on social networks.