Coronavirus: Most Russians don't want the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, think virus is a weapon - poll

Nearly two thirds of Russians are not willing to receive Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, and about the same number believe the new coronavirus was created artificially as a biological weapon, an independent pollster said on Monday.

The Levada Center said a poll it conducted last month showed that 62 percent of people did not want to get Russia's domestically produced vaccine, and that the highest level of reluctance was identified among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Most respondents cited side effects - which can include fever and fatigue - as the main reason for not wanting to get vaccinated.

The poll, which sampled 1601 people in 50 regions, also found that 64 percent of people thought the new coronavirus was created as a biological weapon.

The origin of COVID-19 has been highly politicised, but the majority of virologists and infectious disease experts say it is most likely to have evolved naturally.

A World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China said last month that it was not looking further into whether the virus escaped from a lab, which it considered highly unlikely.

The mission has said its main hypotheses are that the virus originated in a bat, although there are several possible scenarios for how it passed to humans, possibly first by infecting another species of animal.

The belief that the virus was created as a biological weapon is predominant in Russians aged 40-54, with 71 percent of them holding that view, the poll found. Only 23 percent think the virus emerged naturally.

Russia, which has recorded nearly 4.3 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, has approved three vaccines against COVID-19.

The country of around 145 million people launched a mass vaccination campaign with Sputnik V in December. On February 10, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that more than two million Russians have been vaccinated with at least the first dose of Sputnik V.