Russia Offers Unusual Gift to UN Staff

He says they can all have Sputnik-V vaccines
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 22, 2020 7:34 PM CDT
Putin Offers Free COVID Vaccines to UN Staff
In this handout photo released by Russian Presidential Press Service via Sputnik, Russian President makes a televised address at the 75th session of United Nations General Assembly in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.   (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

What do you do when Vladimir Putin offers you Russia’s new coronavirus vaccine, for free? United Nations staff in New York and around the world are now facing that choice, after the Russian president offered Tuesday to provide them the Sputnik-V vaccine in a speech to this year’s General Assembly. Only results from small early studies on Russian vaccine have been published, raising concerns among some scientists that the vaccine isn’t ready yet for widespread use—and prompting memes about potential bizarre side effects. “Any one of us could face this dangerous virus. "The virus has not spared the staff of the United Nations, its headquarters and regional entities,” Putin said in a prerecorded speech from Moscow. The coronavirus pandemic means this year’s General Assembly is a work-from-home production, for the first time in its history.

“Russia is ready to offer UN workers the necessary, qualified help, and in particular we propose to supply our vaccine for free to employees of the organization and its subsidiaries who volunteer for vaccination,” said Putin, who announced the vaccine to broad fanfare last month and said his own daughter is among those who have taken it. He described the offer Tuesday as a response to popular demand. “Some colleagues from the UN have asked about this, and we will not remain indifferent to them," he said. UN staff didn’t immediately speak out on whether they’d take him up on the offer, the AP reports. At the UN’s medical agency in Geneva, the World Health Organization, spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris declined to comment.

(More Russia stories.)

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