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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has vaccinated 3.5 million people with both shots of its Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, which puts it ahead of all countries in Europe in terms of the absolute number of people fully vaccinated, its RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of RDIF, which is marketing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine globally, said the figures put Russia in the top five countries along with China, the United States, India and Israel when it comes to fully vaccinating people.
Dmitriev was pushing back against criticism from some Western media that Russia's domestic vaccination programme has been slow to get off the ground and less successful proportionately than other countries despite RDIF's success at marketing Sputnik globally.
"This indicator is often incorrectly compared to a total number of shots administered, whereas Russia uses a more conservative method based on full vaccination with two components," Dmitriev said in a statement.
If measured proportionately, Russia is doing less well -- the number of Russians he said had received both shots equates to around 2.4% of Russia's 144 million population.
That is lower than an average of 3.8% across the European Union and the European Economic Area, EU data showed.
The United States has administered two doses to more than 37 million people, its data showed, or 11% of the population.
Some countries such as Britain have prioritised giving a first shot to as many people as possible over administering a second dose. About 36% of Britons - more than 24 million people - have had their first dose.
Russia began rolling out its public vaccination campaign in early December, before the EU on Dec. 26.
Dmitriev confirmed that the RDIF had already reached agreements with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany to launch production of Sputnik V.
EU diplomatic sources have told Reuters that behind the scenes, the bloc is turning to Moscow's Sputnik V shot as it tries to get its stuttering efforts to vaccinate its 450 million people back on track.
"Currently there are additional talks ongoing to boost production in the EU," said Dmitriev.
"This will allow us to start supplying Sputnik V to the European single market once approval is granted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)."
The EMA has begun a rolling review of Sputnik V.
Dmitriev said Moscow was also ready to supply EU states that approved Sputnik at a national level, as it has done with Hungary.
(Reporting by Anton Zverev and Anton Kolodyazhnyy; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones)