Sputnik trip: a Prague businessman offers a trip to Russia for vaccinations

“I wanted to give the Czechs a connection with Russia, because Russia is the first country to develop a vaccine. No hiding behind curtains or behind the door of a house in isolation, but finally something that really works, ”explains businessman Andrej Konstantinov.

The vaccine called Sputnik V was developed by the Nikolai Gamaleji Institute in Moscow. He used previously developed Ebola and MERS vaccines, which he modified to make the new vaccine effective against coronavirus.

However, its development is accompanied by a non-standard testing process. The Russians approved the substance on August 11, before the start of the third phase of testing, which controls less common side effects and the overall effectiveness of the vaccine.

The vaccine, which still cannot be declared safe or effective with certainty, has already begun to be administered by the Russian government to its citizens. The employees were the first to receive it “in the first line,” especially doctors and nurses. But anyone from the general public could apply for free.

Officially, vaccination with the Russian coronavirus vaccine could be launched at the turn of October and November. Although the vaccine is intended primarily to meet domestic requirements, according to Konstantinov, it is not a problem for tourists to receive the vaccine. “I already have contracts with the best clinics in Moscow, vaccination for a fee is not a problem,” says the businessman.

Holidays behind Sputnik

According to Konstantinov, a client who pays for this trip for a Russian vaccine must first receive an official invitation from the clinic. Based on this, the customer will receive a visa for the time needed for testing. The vaccine is given in two doses 21 days apart.

It is said that the clinic does not refuse to vaccinate foreigners. “And if it doesn’t work, I’ll return the money,” says Konstantinov.

The customer will pay 3 thousand crowns for the reservation of this “healing stay” alone. In addition to the necessary permits and obtaining visas, the condition for participation is also a medical examination, a negative test for coronavirus and a negative test for antibodies, so that the vaccine makes sense for the customer at all.

The total price of the stay then depends on the client’s requirements, it can range from 30 thousand crowns upwards. “It depends on whether he wants to fly on a higher-class plane, where he wants to live in the hotel, what car he wants to be picked up at the airport,” Konstantinov explains, adding that this is exactly what his office arranges during the trip.

“He can also choose whether he will go for the first vaccine and then stay in Russia for three weeks and take a de facto holiday there, we will arrange a program, theater, museum, circus for him through our partners, as far as I know. Or he can return home, wait, and in three weeks he will come for the second vaccine again, ”explains the Russian-Czech businessman.

According to Konstantinov, the first clients could travel on Sputnik trip in about a month. “So far, we are making a waiting list of candidates, with whom we are slowly starting to solve the necessary documentation,” he said, adding that he already has about a dozen of them.

The Czech authorities do not recommend the trip

The Czech authorities do not yet want to comment on the new vaccine due to a lack of all available information. However, neither the State Office for Drug Control nor the Ministry of Health recommends a way to vaccinate people.

“The Ministry does not have information about this possibility, and without further verification of the veracity of the advertisement, the Ministry of Health definitely does not recommend paying anything,” Kryštof Berka, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told the News.

According to molecular immunologist Václav Hořejší, the process of developing a Russian vaccine was non-standard, but there is a good chance that the substance may work. “I wouldn’t be afraid that it would have any harmful effects, which is really exceptional, especially with vaccines of this type. However, the question is how well it will work, “he told the News.

He also admitted that if the vaccine were available in the Czech Republic, he would be vaccinated himself. However, traveling to Russia because of this seems pointless to him.

However, immunologist and allergist Vojtěch Thon from Masaryk University in Brno has a more critical opinion. “If the Sputnik V vaccine meets all the criteria of safety and efficacy, it is far more appropriate to bring it and register it in our country under the control of SÚKL, and not to organize vaccination outside the EU,” he said.

Professor Roman Chlíbek, head of the group of epidemiologists at the Ministry of Health, but does not anticipate that the Russian vaccine will be authorized for use in the EU in the foreseeable future. If he gets it, according to Chlibek, it will be at a time when Europe already has its own safe and registered vaccine.

“I would definitely not recommend Czech citizens a trip to the Russian vaccine at this time. Some side effects may not occur until more than a few months later. No risk to human health is ever worth it, ”thinks epidemiologist Chlíbek.

Denis Logunov, Deputy Director of the Institute Nikolai Gamaleji, who developed the vaccine, himself admitted that the substance does have side effects. After vaccination, the temperature rises, the head hurts and there is pain at the injection site. He added that the reaction was stronger in younger years, but that “serious side effects” have not yet been seen with other vaccines of this type.

The Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the man behind it – Alexander Gintsburg

Photo: Reuters

The goal is not to earn

The Czech-Russian businessman emphasized that he did not see any profit behind his initiative. “No one will believe me, but I do it from a human point of view. I’m sixty-seven and I’m very surprised and upset about how humanity has turned out now, ”he explains his motivation.

“I only get the first three thousand from the initial reservation, from which I pay my employees, who arrange and complete the entire process of the customer’s trip,” he added. The remaining thirty thousand and more is to travel directly to individual companies, which he orders for the mediation of services.

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