Russian lawmaker Valery Gartung, the deputy head of the “Just Russia” faction in the State Duma, announced on Facebook on October 21 that he has tested positive for COVID-19, though he has no symptoms of the illness. Gartung is one of 40,000 people participating in the Stage III trials of “Sputnik V,” Russia’s first registered vaccine against the coronavirus. “Now I’ve tested positive, which means I definitely got the placebo,” he told the news outlet RBC.
A quarter of all participants in the study did not actually get the vaccine — a standard practice in vaccine trials, designed to measure the product’s efficacy in producing immunity.
In late September, the website Proekt reported that members of the Russian elite were able to buy access to Sputnik V before it was formally registered. Some state officials and well-connected individuals also allegedly paid to ensure that they received the vaccine and not a placebo. In mid-July, sources also told Bloomberg that “scores of Russia’s business and political elite” obtained early access to the vaccine.