Politics, corruption, anti-vaccines: what prevents vaccination against COVID in Ukraine

Ukraine at the end of February received the long-awaited first batch of coronavirus vaccines. The shipment arrived later than planned, and suddenly it was not from where expected - from India. The late delivery of the drug comes amid other vaccination scandals, including those related to corruption, covid dissidence and Vladimir Putin.

On February 23, a cargo with 500 thousand doses of Covishield vaccine arrived in Kiev from India by plane. This is the same drug from AstraZeneca, which has been inoculated in the UK since the beginning of January, but produced not in Europe, but in Asia. The day before, on February 22, the vaccine was officially registered by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine as a medicinal product approved for widespread use. On the morning of February 24, the country began the long-awaited and long-promised vaccination by the authorities.

Currently, about 4-6 thousand Ukrainians are diagnosed with coronavirus a day. These are far from record figures - in late November and early December, at the peak of the incidence, COVID was diagnosed in 14-16 thousand people every day. But the problem remains very acute, given that since the first days of February, the incidence curve has been slowly but still creeping up, and since the beginning of the pandemic, with almost 1.4 million detected cases, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 26 thousand Ukrainians.

For the first time, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the imminent start of vaccination back in October last year. On the official Facebook page, he promised that Ukrainians will receive a real coronavirus vaccine from the European Union shortly after clinical trials of Western drugs are over. "I do not advise too much to trust the pre-election" initiatives "of individual cynics who have already been vaccinated with unverified means," - also said in the message of the Ukrainian president.

This message had clear political overtones, which Volodymyr Zelensky did not try to hide. On the eve of the publication of a post promising a real vaccine, Viktor Medvedchuk, co-chairman of the pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life (Opposition Platform - For Life) party, held talks with Vladimir Putin on possible supplies of the Sputnik V Russian vaccine, unregistered in Europe, which some experts have doubts about the real effectiveness of which.

Putin promised his godfather (Medvedchuk's daughter is the goddaughter of the Russian president) to help with the delivery of Sputnik V to Ukrainian medical institutions. At this meeting, Viktor Medvedchuk himself admitted that he had been vaccinated with the Russian vaccine and said that he considered it the most effective means of fighting the coronavirus.

The media empire of Viktor Medvedchuk, before its expulsion from television (in early February, the National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions against Medvedchuk and his entourage), devoted dozens, if not hundreds of hours to discussing the merits of the Russian vaccine. The main one, if you believe the guests of the channels already banned for broadcasting, was cheapness.

Moscow does not speak or show How Putin's godfather lost his media empire in Ukraine

In December, Medvedchuk announced that Biolek, a Kharkiv-based company, was ready to start production of Sputnik V at its facilities and even submitted an application to the Ministry of Health with a request to authorize the release of the Russian drug. The company initially denied these reports, but in the end its management admitted that it had indeed filed such an application. Now this document is posted on the main page of the Biolek website. The application was signed by Victor Martin, a shareholder of the Cypriot company Vilkom Services Limited, which controls the Kharkiv pharmaceutical manufacturer. Martin, as the Russian Forbes wrote, is a close friend of Russian citizen Viktor Kharitonin, who until 2018 through his Pharmstandard company owned a significant share of the same Ukrainian Biolek.

Both Medvedchuk himself and the guests of his TV channels demanded that this request be satisfied immediately, despite Sputnik's lack of approval from independent international medical experts. “One political force started some kind of hysteria over the registration of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. I can say right away: you can be hysterical for a very long time. Nobody will register the Russian vaccine in Ukraine, ”Minister of Health Maxim Stepanov responded to these demands.

In February, Stepanov signed a decree prohibiting the registration of vaccines against coronavirus developed in the aggressor country, which the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine recognized the Russian Federation shortly after the occupation of Crimea and the seizure of part of Donbass by Russian mercenaries and regular military personnel - "vacationers".

By the time the head of the Ministry of Health put an end to speculation around the Russian vaccine, he himself had been the object of criticism, hardly less caustic than the one faced by Sputnik V and its Ukrainian lawyers. Back in the spring of 2020, in the parliament, deputies of the Golos faction began collecting signatures under the draft resolution on Stepanov's resignation. He was accused of organizing the fight against the pandemic, which was useless from the point of view of the organizers of the collection of signatures. The deputies, among other things, directly accused the minister of opaque purchases of protective suits for doctors three times more expensive than the selling price. Then the initiative of "Golos" quickly ended in nothing - the majority of the Rada deputies simply refused to put their signatures on the project, and it was never submitted to parliament for consideration.

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