The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) says Turkmenistan has registered Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine against COVID-19 even though the country claims to have no cases of the coronavirus.
"Turkmenistan became the first country in Central Asia that officially approved the use of the Sputnik-V vaccine on its territory," the RDIF, which helped develop the vaccine, said in a statement on January 18, adding that the vaccine had been registered thanks to an emergency-use authorization without additional clinical research.
Turkmenistan is the only nation in Central Asia that has yet to report officially on a single coronavirus infection to the World Health Organization (WHO).
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In August, the WHO expressed concern over an increase in atypical pneumonia cases in Turkmenistan and unsuccessfully urged Ashgabat to allow it to organize independent coronavirus tests in the country.
Turkmen officials have clung to their zero-infections statistics despite signs of outbreaks in prisons, schools, and the general population as hospitals get increasingly crowded, as well as large numbers of cases in neighboring countries.
Many Turkmen citizens report staying home despite illness, fearing that a trip to the doctor could infect them as hospitals quietly strain under high numbers of patients reporting COVID-19-like symptoms.
The bodies of victims of lung ailments are being delivered to relatives in special plastic bags, and there have been an unusually high number of fresh graves across the country, RFE/RL's correspondents have reported.
Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine has been officially approved for use in several countries including Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Bolivia, Palestine, Paraguay, and Venezuela.