In 1768, Russian empress Catherine the Great volunteered to be inoculated against smallpox in an effort to show her subjects that the emerging medical technique was safe.

It was with a similar aim in mind that President Vladimir Putin revealed last Tuesday that his daughter had been part of human trials for Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. That detail came as Putin announced that Russia had granted the vaccine regulatory approval for public use, beating every other country to the milestone...

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