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Since then, only 15,000 people have been vaccinated, according to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. It means that on average, each clinic inoculated about 15 people a day, a fraction of the at least 271,000 people from priority groups vaccinated in the US in the first week. 

Online sign-up forms for nine Moscow clinics reviewed by CNN showed plenty of free slots — even when signing up to get the shot the next day. In two clinics visited by CNN last week, there was no queue for the vaccine, and both institutions had only filled one slot, with five people showing up by midday. 

One vial of Sputnik V contains five doses and takes half an hour to defrost, according to the vaccine’s instruction. After that, it can’t be put back in the freezer and must be discarded if not used, so clinics aim to administer the vaccine to a group of five at a time, according to packaging instructions. 

“When I was getting my shot, only two out five people who signed up [for that time slot] showed up,” Moscow-based journalist Nikita Sologub tweeted. “The other three defrosted vaccines had to be thrown out.” 

Sputnik V’s first shots in Moscow were primarily allocated for healthcare workers and teachers, but that list quickly expanded to cover other groups, including journalists and transportation workers. 

Reports from local independent media also suggest that virtually anyone could sign up to get the vaccine if they fit the health criteria, as paperwork checks for eligibility have apparently been lax. 

At this stage, Russia is primarily vaccinating people ages 18-60 without chronic health conditions. Last week, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announced that all regions are “ready to accept [the vaccine] and vaccinate.”

Widespread mistrust

Empty waiting halls in Moscow clinics and wasted shots could be the symptoms of a larger issue Russia will have to face as the vaccination program expands nationwide: widespread mistrust in its vaccine. 

Russia approved its first Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, in August after testing it on several dozen people in a study with great fanfare from state TV.  

The news of Sputnik V’s approval ahead of large-scale Phase 3 trials necessary to test the vaccine’s safety and efficacy drew considerable criticism from scientific and medical circles who worried that Russia was short-cutting an established process for political and PR gain. 

Sputnik V showed more than 90% efficacy in trials, according to its makers at the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Biology. But the data they provided has been questioned as well, with some critics saying it may have been rushed out in an effort to keep up with announcements from other vaccine producers who were further ahead in Phase 3 trials, such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to roll out large-scale vaccination on December 2, hours after the UK  authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, signaling it will soon start inoculating en masse.  

The name itself, Sputnik V, in honor of the first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, is reminiscent of the USSR’s early victory in the space race with the United States.  

Vaccine skeptics pose a challenge to most governments looking to vaccinate the majority of their populations to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. In Russia, the very people who could persuade the general public to take the shot are hardly on board, with many health workers wary of the drug. 

“At this stage, I’m not ready to get vaccinated, as the Russian vaccine is not transparent, and its effectiveness hasn’t been proven,” said Viktoria Alexandrova, a general practitioner in Saint Petersburg. “And all of that because of this absurd political race on who’s going to get the vaccine faster. 

“So maybe in two years,” Alexandrova added.  

Most of the Russian doctors and nurses CNN spoke to said they have concerns regarding the rushed registration process for vaccine use and would like to see more data before getting the shot. 

Putin still hasn't taken Russia's vaccine, months after his daughter did

“I’ve recently recovered from Covid-19, so I still have antibodies,” said Natalya Romanenko, a nurse in the Chelyabinsk region. “None of my colleagues are planning on getting it now. I might get it later, but first we need to see how people manage with it.” 

Scientists are still working to establish how much immunity antibodies to the virus might provide against reinfection. But Yulia Balovleva, a nurse in Saint Petersburg, said she is “ready to take any vaccine” if that helps bring the pandemic closer to an end. 

A poll conducted in late October by the independent Levada Center found 59% of Russians ​polled do not want to get vaccinated if the vaccination was free and voluntary — a 4% increase from the same survey conducted in August.  

Another poll made public by the ruling United Russia party in October found 73% of people polled were not planning to get vaccinated, Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported. CNN has not independently reviewed that polling data, but United Russia’s acknowledgment of public skepticism was striking, given the government’s all-out push to promote the vaccine.

Breaking records

The Russian government’s patriotic messaging at all stages of the pandemic only fueled the already deep-rooted mistrust in the public health system, with skeptical Russians relying on word of mouth and social media posts to learn about the way the country is faring amid the pandemic. Vaccine trials were no exception, with volunteers taking to Facebook and Telegram to exchange data and advice.

“What’s wrong with the Russian coronavirus vaccine? Surprisingly, it’s Putin, the rest is more or less fine,” Leonid Volkov, opposition politician Alexey Navalny’s chief of staff, said in a YouTube video. “It has the worst PR campaign and the worst reputation among vaccines because of this insane race to grab the palm of victory.”

Putin ordered his government to roll out mass vaccination on December 2.

President Putin has repeatedly voiced support for Sputnik V, saying it has already proven its effectiveness. 

“I think it’s necessary to [have mass vaccination],” Putin said during his annual press conference Thursday. “And I repeat that our vaccine is effective and safe, so I see no reason not to vaccinate.” 

But the 68-year-old president has yet to take the vaccine himself. Speaking on Thursday, Putin confirmed that he had not been inoculated with Sputnik V yet, because it is not advised to people older than 60. 

There are exceptions to this rule. The official Sputnik V Twitter account proudly announced that American film director Oliver Stone, who is 74 and is in Russia shooting a climate change documentary, has become “the first Oscar winner to get vaccinated with Sputnik V.” 

Aside from criticism over the lack of transparency and data behind the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, some healthcare workers are concerned about what one ambulance worker ironically described to CNN as “voluntary-mandatory vaccination.”   

CNN-Bellingcat investigation identifies Russian specialists who trailed Putin's nemesis Alexey Navalny before he was poisoned

Russia’s public sector workers, often referred to as “budzhetniki” or “budget workers,” as their salaries are paid from the state budget, often find themselves a tool in the government’s hands looking to bulk up participation in a project, be it elections or a pro-government demonstration.

According to internal documents, shared with CNN by an independent union called Alliance of Doctors, at least two hospitals in Moscow have ordered all of their staff to get vaccinated, with heads of departments obliged to hold “explanatory” talks with their teams about vaccine’s safety. 

Moscow Health Department said in a statement that all vaccinations are done on a voluntary basis and the orders only meant to “create the most comfortable conditions for [vaccination], as well as [underscore] the need for explanatory work.”

In a country where the healthcare system is largely state-run and where the heads of state institutions carry tremendous authority, that kind of pressure is significant.  

The stakes are high: Russia is nearing 3 million registered cases as its mortality figures spiral, breaking the records set during the spring outbreak. As of December 23, more than 52,000 people in Russia have officially died from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with excess mortality data from official sources suggesting this number could be as much as three times higher.

To effectively vaccinate its population, Russia needs to inoculate 60%-70% of its roughly 146 million population, according to the country’s health minister. And to do that, it would not only have to win at the logistical challenges of delivering enough shots across its vast territory but also at turning around public opinion. 

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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