President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday launched a new plea for Russians to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but stressed that the injections would not become mandatory.
Russia registered the world’s first Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in August 2020, but vaccine skepticism is a major problem in Moscow and other Russian cities.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin last week declared Moscow the first world capital to launch a mass vaccination campaign.
However, of Moscow’s estimated 12 million people, only 1.3 million had been vaccinated and the percentage of people vaccinated in the Russian capital was lower than in any European city, he said.
Speaking at a government meeting on Wednesday, Putin urged the Russians to dismiss any remaining doubts and said Russian vaccines were “the most reliable and safest” in the world.
“The most important thing is health. Please think about it, ”Putin, 68, said.
But the Kremlin chief also said he was against mandatory vaccinations.
“Citizens must themselves understand this need, realize that if they do not get vaccinated, they can face a very serious and even fatal danger,” he added.
Sociologists at the Levada-Center, a leading independent pollster, say Russians are reluctant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons, but also point out that refusal to get vaccinated is a sign of growing “alienation” between ordinary people and people. authorities.
Many Russians believe the development of the Sputnik vaccine was rushed to improve Moscow’s foreign policy credentials.
In addition to Sputnik, Russia has developed two other vaccines – EpiVacCorona and CoviVac.
In Moscow, vaccines are available free to anyone who wants them, with vaccination centers set up at important sites, including shopping malls and parks.
The country has lifted almost all virus-related restrictions, and many Russians refuse to wear masks on public transport and other public places.
Russia has been among the countries hardest hit by Covid-19.
Russian health officials reported more than 5 million cases of coronavirus and more than 119,000 deaths as of Wednesday.
© 2021 AFP