Vladimir Putin Calls Russia's COVID Vaccine as 'Reliable as a Kalashnikov Assault Rifle'

Russian President Vladimir Putin likened the country's COVID-19 vaccine to a Kalashnikov assault rifle during a televised video conference on Thursday.

Putin was quoted by Interfax, an independent Russian news agency, as saying the Russian vaccines "are very modern and without a doubt the most reliable and the safest today."

"As one European expert said, they're reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle. I think he's certainly right," the president added.

The Kalashnikov rifle, also known as an AK-47, was developed in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II and remains one of the most widely used rifles around the world because of its reliability under harsh conditions, as well as its relatively low production costs.

Putin's remarks come after Moderna's coronavirus vaccine was named the best in the world, beating out competitors like Russia's Sputnik V and Pfizer-BioNTech, at the annual World Vaccine Congress on Thursday.

"I understand that world markets have decided to support the American vaccine Moderna, which is competing aggressively with another American-European company Pfizer," Putin said alongside Alexander Gintsburg, who is heading the national coronavirus response.

The president suggested that it is too early to tell which vaccine ranks the best in the world. State-run TASS news agency quoted Putin saying, "Whether this will actually be the case will only be clear 10 years after application and analysis of the results."

Vladimir Putin Sputnik COVID Vaccine Assault Rifle
Russia President Vladimir Putin chairs a video meeting of the Pobeda (Victory) organising committee at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on July 2, 2020. On Thursday, Putin said the Russian COVID vaccine was as "reliable as Kalashnikov assault rifle." Alexei Druzhinin/AFP

Putin has been a vocal proponent of Sputnik V since it was authorized in Russia last summer. Unlike Moderna, the Russian vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine. Sputnik V uses adenovirus vector technology, the same kind employed in shots made by AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson.

Gintsburg agreed with Putin during the teleconference and called the decision from the World Vaccine Congress a "strange choice."

"I can say that it's absolutely unclear how all this was evaluated, given the high mortality rate from mRNA vaccines," Gintsburg said, according to TASS. "It's unclear on what grounds and on what particular unbiased criteria this was based."

On Thursday, Russia also authorized the use of a one-shot vaccine known as "Sputnik Light," according to the country's sovereign wealth fund. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said the slimmed-down vaccine has an efficacy rate of 79.4 percent and would cost less than $10 a dose.

"The single dose regimen solves the challenge of immunizing large groups in a shorter time, which is especially important during the acute phase of the spread of coronavirus, achieving herd immunity faster," RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement.

He added, "The Sputnik Light vaccine will be exported to our international partners to help increase the rate of vaccinations in a number of countries in the face of the ongoing fight with the pandemic and new strains of coronavirus."

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