In a Dutch news article of late February, Russia expert Helga Salemon claims that the Sputnik V corona vaccine is available in just 5 of the 85 regions of Russia. Also, she claims that the vaccine is better available for the so-called elite than for other people. These claims appear to be not completely true.
On February 3rd of 2021, the Dutch news platform ‘EenVandaag’ published an article about a possible export of 100 million doses of the Russian corona vaccine Sputnik-V to Europe. In this article, Russia analyst Helga Salemon of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies is asked about her opinion on this topic. Mrs. Salemon claims that the corona vaccine is only available in 5 of the 85 regions in total of the Russian Federation. Furthermore, she says: “It is readily available for the elite, much more difficult for the rest”.
EenVandaag doesn’t mention the source of Salemon’s information. After having contacted Mrs.Salemon in person, it appears that she based her information on the Russian news site ‘The New Times’ (Novoye Vremya). The New Times in turn is referring to the Russian research company St. Petersburg Politics Foundation. While Salemon claims that the vaccine is only available in 5 of 85 regions in the Russian Federation, this appears to be not the whole story. The claim gives the impression that the vaccine is unavailable in the other regions of Russia. However, the availability in 5 regions refers to a high possibility of mass vaccinations. Beside those mass vaccinations, there are still 30 regions in Russia where the vaccine is available to a lower extent, as can be seen in figure 2.
Furthermore, Mrs. Salemon claims that the vaccine would be available in a higher extent for a so-called elite. This term can be described as vague, as it is not clear what is meant with this term. According to the research of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, the vaccine is also available for teachers, doctors and social workers in a couple of regions where there is access to the vaccine to a certain extent. It is not obvious from the research that a so-called ‘elite’ would have better access to the vaccine, as can be seen in figure 3.
Russia expert Joris van Bladel, who in the past worked as an advisor for the safity commission of the Austrian ministry of Safety and Sport with special focus on Russian affairs, confirms the conclusion of this factcheck. Salemon’s claim about the availability of the Sputnik-V vaccine is largely untrue, as she is only describing the above average availability of the vaccine in 5 out of 85 regions of the Russian Federation.
In stating that the vaccine would only be available in 5 out of 85 regions in the Russian Federation, Mrs. Salemon is not making enough adjustments as it appears to be available in 35 regions to a more or less extent according to the primary source, the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation. Beside this conclusion, there cannot be found any evidence from the primary source that a so-called ‘elite’ would have better access to the vaccine. Furthermore, her initial claim which is given in the article of ‘EenVandaag’ is based on a Russian article instead of the primary source itself. According to this factual analysis, the conclusion of this factcheck is ‘mostly false’.
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RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Jan Philip Uitenbroek and Bjorn Smallenbroek, Windesheim University, Zwolle, The Netherlands