Medical workers wearing personal protective equipment treat a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease at the intensive care unit in a Covid-19 ward of the city clinical hospital No. 52, in Moscow, Russia. Photo: AFP / Ilya Pitalev / Sputnik

The Kremlin said Thursday that Moscow had no immediate plans to allow foreign coronavirus vaccines into Russia, despite the country’s sluggish vaccination rates and rising death toll in a third wave of the pandemic.

Russia – whose Sputnik V vaccine is not recognized by the EU – is not currently discussing the “mutual recognition” of vaccines with Brussels, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Health officials on Thursday recorded 791 Covid deaths in the last 24 hours. The Kremlin has struggled to counter widespread anti-vaccine sentiment, with only 20% of Russians having received at least one jab. 

Asked if allowing Western vaccines would push hesitant Russians to vaccinate themselves by offering them a choice, Peskov said the country had enough home-grown vaccines.

“We have our own four vaccines,” he said. “Isn’t that a choice?”

Aside from Sputnik V, Russia has registered three other vaccines – EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and Sputnik Light, a single-dose version of Sputnik V. 

Peskov added that while there are no such talks yet, he hopes Moscow and Brussels can discuss vaccine recognition in the future.

First greeted with skepticism, the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has since won over experts. President Vladimir Putin has described it as “the best vaccine in the world.” 

But Russians themselves seem less convinced, with many saying they would prefer a Western vaccine and 54% saying they don’t plan to get vaccinated.

Both the Sputnik V and Sinovac vaccines are under a “rolling review” process by the European Medicines Agency, which is a step prior to seeking formal authorization.

Sputnik V has been approved in 67 countries, including ex-Soviet nations like Belarus and Armenia, allies like Venezuela and Iran, but also Argentina, Brazil, India and Pakistan.