From early next year, Kazakhstan will begin providing the public with shots of the Russian-developed Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, becoming one of the first countries in the world to embark on a similar campaign.
In a statement on 4 December, the president's office stated that an agreement had been reached with the Russian government to allow the production of the vaccine to begin in Kazakhstan on 22 December.
"The first stage [of vaccinations] will cover the population's most at-risk groups, including physicians, educators, law enforcement officers," the statement reads.
Kazakhstan is also developing a vaccine of its own. At a meeting with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Prime Minister Askar Mamin said, "the first and second rounds of vaccine clinical trials, called QazCovid-in, had been completed and that no side effects were recorded and high efficiency was demonstrated by the vaccine."
A third phase involving approximately 3,000 volunteer test subjects will start on 25 December and is scheduled to be completed by the end of March.
It is reportedly not yet decided which facilities will be used by Nur-Sultan to produce the Russian vaccine. A spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development cited the Sputnik news agency as saying that a pharmaceutical plant in the city of Karaganda is being considered an option.
The decision to move forward with the adoption of Sputnik-V, whose developers claim to have demonstrated 95 percent efficiency during testing, puts an end to a period of uncertainty about which vaccine Kazakhstan would, after all, use. State media have trumpeted QazCovid-upbeat in's assessments, but the testing schedule means that the solution will only be viable at best by around the middle of next year.
Western-made vaccines, such as those developed by companies such as Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, are unlikely to be available to Kazakhstan in any significant amount as other western governments are trying to buy the bulk of the stocks.
In addition, compared to the $20 of the Pfizer product and the approximately $15-25 cost of Moderna's vaccine, Sputnik-V promises to be much cheaper, at $10 per dose. That price tag is greater than the $2.50 pledged to AstraZeneca, which, however, developed its vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University.