The Russian government, anticipating a total fiasco of its mass vaccination campaign, is already looking for a "western trail" to justify own failure that is looming on the horizon.
After President Vladimir Putin ordered to deploy mass vaccination of Russians against coronavirus using the Sputnik-V drug, which had not undergone all stages of clinical trials and which the leader hadn't used either, strange things started happening in the Russian media space.
Officials are coming up with statements that raise many questions as to whether mass vaccination would yield any positive results in the efforts to tackle corona and whether the government would pursue with the vaccination idea at all.
First, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, whom Putin appointed in charge of "vaccination", warned citizens that they must refrain from alcohol for 42 days prior to getting a shot. Taking into account the enormous number of binge drinkers in Russia, the instruction is pretty much impossible to comply with for a major part of the population, which means that people will still be getting infected despite being vaccinated.
In fact, by voicing a warning that applies to no other drug internationally, Ms Golikova has effectively protected herself from responsibility for the forthcoming failure of the ineffective vaccine. After all, if reports start coming in of people getting corona after being vaccinated, the government will claim they have not complied with alcohol-related instructions.
Today, on December 11, the Russian defense ministry intervened when Major General Igor Konashenkov, said that Western powers had been plotting to compromise the Russian vaccine.
This statement, along with that voiced by Golikova, was widely spread throughout the Russian media, making top morning news in Russia.
It's a rather complicated task though to find ways to further discredit an already compromised vaccine which hasn't undergone clinical trials, which Putin has shunned, and which requires a 42-day alcohol-free preparation period for patients. President of Russia refuses to use and which cannot be drunk for 42 days, but it looks like Russians believe this can still be done. And the defense ministry is "well aware" of this. And it will be known to potential foreign clients of the vaccine, who received a limited number of doses for research, while ordering supplies of vaccines from major international corporations.
But another point is also important here – Russia is unable to cover own needs, let alone ensure stable exports of its vaccine, all due to the lack of appropriate production capacities.
Ms Golikova yesterday noted that by late February 2021, some 6.9 million doses of Sputnik-V would be produced for the needs of Russian citizens.
Interestingly enough, exactly one month ago, on November 11 (even before Putin's order to deploy mass vaccination), chief of a Russian Gamaleia research facility Alexander Gunzburg said that the start of vaccination could be expected in January-February 2021, when the monthly volume of vaccine production will reach up to 6 million doses.
But, as we can see, only 6.9 million doses will be produced by the end of February, or, if we count from the day of Ginzburg's announcement, November 11, it's an average of 2 million doses per month!
And here is another peculiar point: in November, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova stated that by the end of 2020 more than 2 million doses of Sputnik-V vaccine would have been produced in Russia, or, perhaps, it would be fair to say "only" 2 million doses.
So, as of today, according to plans for February 2021, Russia, with a population of about 140 million, won't be able to produce the required volumes of vaccine for domestic consumption. So any, even hypothetical, supplies abroad are off the table! And this failure, both on the internal and, what's more important, external front, has to somehow be explained to the public. What could be better than the narrative of Western competitors being "terrified" of the Russian miracle drug, which leads the West to unfolding a tarring campaign against Sputnik-V?
The situation with Sputnik-V reminds me very much of the hysterical lies Russians have been spreading about inevitable success of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction. First it was: "We will complete the Nord Stream 2 pipe by the end of December 2019"... then came "We will complete it by May 2020"... and "We will do it by December 2020!" But they never did. Now it's "within 2021!"
And I can't fail to mention in this context the attempts to impose on Ukraine the production of Sputnik-V at Ukrainian enterprises, through the unceasing, frantic lobbying of the Russian vaccine through the pro-Russian OPZZh party and media platforms it effectively controls. Indeed, taking into account such a critical situation with Russia-based production capacities, it seems that the OPZZh and its head Viktor Medvedchuk couldn't care less about the health of Ukrainians, while in fact trying to lobby for at least one Sputnik-V production site for Russia's internal needs.
That's because all other countries whom Moscow asked to help produce their "vaccine", said no, including France. It should be recalled that the French media in their coverage of phone talks between Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron said the Russian leader had requested assistance in providing French capacities for Sputnik-V production.
So much for a "superpower", which is unable to even set up production of its own unfinished product... But still, it's the "insidious West" whom they will blame in the end. As always…