SAN MARINO — On the ground floor of the only hospital in San Marino, a tiny, independent republic perched high above the surrounding Italian countryside, nurses prepared Covid-19 vaccine doses from glass vials labeled in Cyrillic script, flicked needles and sought to put nervous residents at ease.
“Have you started speaking Russian since you got your first shot?” one nurse asked, coaxing a smile from Erica Stranieri, 32, as he injected Russia’s Sputnik vaccine into her arm.
San Marino, an ancient enclave within northern Italy, topped with crenelated medieval battlements on a mountain near the Adriatic coast, is best known — to the extent it is known at all — as one of the smallest countries on Earth.
the Sputnik vaccine, which has not been authorized by European or Italian drug regulators. For San Marino, it seemed like the natural thing to do.
Beslan school siege of 2004. At the national university is a bust of the first person in space, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
San Marino did not back sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Crimea. In 2019, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, visited San Marino without stopping in Italy.
“Politically there is a strong link,” said Sergio Rabini, 62, the director of the San Marino hospital, who was himself hospitalized with Covid in October. He walked past the Covid ward, still packed with patients intubated in intensive care, and down to the vaccination center.
“Here’s Sputnik,” he said, holding up one of the thawing vials. He said it wasn’t the first time his country hadn’t followed the lead of Italian or European regulatory agencies.