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Israel delays entry of tourists vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V

Visitors who received the shot will be allowed in starting December 1, two weeks later than scheduled; still subject to serological test

In this July 12, 2021 file photo, a medical worker administers a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Gostinny Dvor, a huge exhibition place in Moscow, Russia. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)
In this July 12, 2021 file photo, a medical worker administers a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Gostinny Dvor, a huge exhibition place in Moscow, Russia. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

The Tourism Ministry announced Monday that it was holding off on allowing in tourists inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

Originally, Israel said that it would start allowing visitors who received the Russia-developed shot starting November 15, but that move will now be postponed until December 1.

Those inoculated with Sputnik V will be required to take a serological test to show the presence of antibodies, as per the original decision.

Israel began readmitting vaccinated tourists on November 1, but only those who had received vaccines approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. They are not required to undergo a serological test.

Allowing visitors who received the Russian shot was a policy shift for Israel.

Israel’s policy has been to closely follow FDA guidelines on COVID-19 vaccine usage, though it broke with US regulators in offering booster shots to the general population.

Travelers are seen at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on September 20, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The decision to allow Russian tourists was announced after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

Launched in August 2020 and proudly named after the world’s first satellite to symbolize Russia’s scientific prowess, the Sputnik V vaccine has been approved in some 70 countries.

However, the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency have not approved it and some have questioned the lack of transparency of Russia’s vaccine trials.

Russia is still in the middle of a wave of infections that began in mid-September, and has been seeing record daily highs in the number of deaths.

The surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.

A medical worker administers a shot of Russia’s Sputnik Lite coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in the GUM, State Department store, in Red Square with the St. Basil Cathedral in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 26, 2021 (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Fewer than 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved its domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine months before most of the world.

In total, the Russian coronavirus task force has reported more than 254,000 deaths — by far the highest death toll in Europe. Some experts believe the true figure is higher.

Reports by Russia’s statistical service, Rosstat, that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher mortality: 462,000 people with COVID-19 died between April 2020 and September of this year.

Russian officials have said the task force only includes deaths for which COVID-19 was the main cause, and uses data from medical facilities. Rosstat uses wider criteria for counting virus-related deaths and takes its numbers from civil registry offices where registering a death is finalized.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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