Russia said to press Israel to recognize its Sputnik V vaccine

Moscow wants travelers who received its homemade inoculation to skip quarantine when visiting, but Israel currently doesn’t accept any vaccine done abroad, demanding antibody test

A vial with Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in a medical room, in Moscow, Russia, December 5, 2020 (Pavel Golovkin/AP)
A vial with Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in a medical room, in Moscow, Russia, December 5, 2020 (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

Russia is pressuring Israel to recognize its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccination, enabling those who have been inoculated to enter the country without the need for quarantine or an antibody test, an Israeli report said Tuesday.

Moscow has raised the issue several times, according to the Ynet new website, which did not cite sources.

Russia, which is running an international media campaign to promote Sputnik V, is reportedly keen for Israel to recognize the vaccine as the Jewish state has become the focus of world attention due to its rapid inoculation program that has already given shots to over half the population.

However, Israeli officials have reportedly told the Russians that the country currently does not recognize any vaccination carried out anywhere else in the world, including those who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation that Israel itself is using.

All arrivals from abroad must quarantine for two weeks and those who have been vaccinated must undergo a serological test for coronavirus antibodies in order to get permission for an early release from isolation.

Russia is on a list of countries expected in the coming months to allow quarantined Israelis to visit without the need for quarantine, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

Among the countries expected to recognize Israel’s so-called Green Pass are the Arab states that Israel established diplomatic relations with last year — Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

Russia, Italy, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Thailand and some other EU states are also expected to allow in vaccinated Israelis, Channel 12 reported.

Israel has gradually reopened in recent weeks from a national lockdown amid its world-leading vaccination campaign and decreasing morbidity, but health officials have warned that international travel could introduce dangerous new virus variants.

So far, 5,198,229 Israelis have received the first of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, among them 4,282,865 who had also had the second shot, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday.

Despite skepticism about Russia’s hasty introduction of Sputnik V, which was rolled out before it had completed late-stage trials, the vaccine appears to be safe and effective. According to a study published last month in the journal Lancet, Sputnik V is 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19, although it’s still unclear if the vaccine can prevent the spread of the disease.

With a global shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, some experts say boosting the use of vaccines made by China and Russia could offer a quicker way to increase the global supply. Others note that Russia’s push to export its vaccine around the world may be driven by political interests. Sputnik V is being ordered by a growing list of countries that are unable to obtain the inoculations being used in the West.

Media reports in Israel and abroad last month claimed that Jerusalem had agreed to fund the purchase of an unknown quantity of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for Syria, as part of a deal for the return of an Israeli woman who was held by Damascus after she crossed the border at the start of February.

AP contributed to this report.

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