01:33 GMT02 December 2020
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    NEW YORK (Sputnik) - Work is ongoing to implement Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative to supply the Russian vaccine against COVID-19 to the United Nations staff, but it is still in early stages, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said, also noting that his colleagues from the organisation are eager to get vaccinated.

    According to the Russian diplomat, many steps are yet to be made to enable UN vaccination, as this is not "a question of someone's desire."

    "The vaccine is not broadly used in Russia yet. As far as I see it, clinical studies are ongoing. Then, certain professional groups, such as doctors and teachers, will be the first ones to receive the vaccine, and only after that the large-scale voluntary vaccination will start," Nebenzia explained, stressing that vaccination of the UN staff will be non-mandatory as well, as "we will not be chasing anyone with a syringe and try to get it through one's forearm on the run."

    Many procedural, medical, logistics and political issues are to be settled at the UN Secretariat, Nebenzia went on to say.

    "Even if we reach agreement with the UN, the vaccine will be sent to the territory of the country that hosts the UN headquarters [the United States]. Of course, the UN has an extraterritorial status. But this is also a topic we have not even touched upon yet, as we are in an earlier stage," Nebenzia added.

    Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) will have to conduct the so-called prequalification to enable the immunization of the UN staff, the Russian diplomat noted.

    "As I see it, this is the stage we are in. I mean, Moscow and Geneva, the WHO, currently focus on prequalification. When this is done, we will have to address such issues as deliveries, storing and the vaccination as well," Nebenzia said, praising Russia's progress in COVID-19 vaccines introduction.

    It is hard to make any forecast regarding when the UN will receive the Russian vaccine, but the effort is being made, the Russian envoy concluded.

    In his address at the UN General Assembly in September, Putin offered to provide free Sputnik V vaccines to all the UN staff worldwide. Nebenzia recalled the positive reaction of the UN Secretariat to the proposal, noting that colleagues from the organization keep asking him: "Where is the vaccine, when will you vaccinate us?"

    In August, Russia became the first country in the world to register a vaccine against COVID-19, dubbed Sputnik V and developed by the Gamaleya research institute.

    Tags:
    vaccine, United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, coronavirus, COVID-19, Russia
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