Rthe ussie has finally admitted it has a vaccination problem – but with an ‘explosion’ of new cases bringing the country’s daily toll to its highest level since january, the question is whether this public awareness is arrived too late.
Only 11% of Russia’s 146 million people are fully vaccinated – whether due to vaccine skepticism, doubts about Sputnik or other Russian-made vaccines, or “nihilism,” as a Kremlin spokesperson suggested.
But with more than 20,000 new cases reported across Russia in the past two days, as well as tough new restrictions for those who have not received their vaccine, queues at public vaccination centers have risen. now extend.
Recently, at an emergency vaccination site in Moscow’s Metropolis shopping center, dozens of Russians lined up for a photo of Sputnik.
“It’s three o’clock now, soon it will be four,” said an attendant as he ran among a mostly young crowd filling out forms with their medical data. I asked if it was always like this. “It’s just this week – just since Monday,” he replied.
What has changed are a series of tough new measures from Moscow and other cities that will target those who refuse to be vaccinated. Starting Monday, cafes and restaurants in Moscow will require vaccine QR codes for customers to be seated. Hospitals will turn away patients seeking elective surgeries. Public spaces, including outdoor play areas, have been closed. The government and service industries have set a goal of vaccinating 60% of their employees.
“No, I don’t fully trust [the vaccine], but at this point I don’t think I have a choice, ”said Anastasia Lavrentyeva, who works in human resources and also has an independent event and training company for corporate clients. “It’s the vaccine or soon I won’t be able to work at all. She hopes the severe restrictions will be temporary and that outdoor events will be allowed by the end of the summer.
The Kremlin has denied that the Russians are forced to get their shots. The new restrictions in Moscow were announced as Putin flew to meet US President Joe Biden last week; and the Russian president has said that getting the vaccine remains a personal choice. Putin, who is regularly filmed shirtless, declined to post pictures of himself being vaccinated, despite the likelihood that it would have boosted confidence in the beatings.
But in the face of a wave of new cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, even the Kremlin has had to change its tone to provide support to the regional leaders needed to implement the unpopular measures. Leaked videos of local hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients, or long lines of ambulances, have returned after a months-long lull in which Russia claimed to have conquered the disease.
“On the whole, vaccination is indeed always voluntary,” said Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman. But he added: “If a Muscovite works in the service sector, he should get vaccinated. If they have decided not to get the vaccine, they should just stop working in the service sector. “
The new requirements have reportedly pushed up prices in Russia’s hidden market for vaccination certificates, where resellers of messaging apps claim they can not only provide falsified reports, but also insert names directly into government patient registers. vaccinated. Similar services existed in the past to provide fake college degrees. The practice is now adapted to the era of the pandemic.
Doctors see the coming weeks as crucial in showing the Russians that the vaccination campaign is not wasted and that it is being delivered in an efficient and professional manner.
“It’s a great chance,” said a doctor at the 62nd Moscow Hospital, who has seen an increase in the number of Russians seeking to be vaccinated this week. “We know it’s either [patients coming to] us or people finding a way around the restrictions, so our priority is to vaccinate as many people as we want. “
When asked why the Russians had resisted getting Sputnik or the other Russian vaccines, CoviVac or EpiVacCorona, he smiled: “Sometimes we need a little push. Most of those interviewed by the Guardian about vaccination sites said they had postponed their vaccination because they believed the threat of the disease in Moscow had diminished.
A May survey by the Independent Levada Center reported that 62% of Russians said they were not ready to be vaccinated with Sputnik V, which was deployed in December last year and touted as “the first vaccine registered against Covid-19 ”.
Attention has been drawn to Russian anti-vaccine groups who have openly opposed every move, suggesting the coronavirus outbreak is being invented or propagating conspiracy theories that the vaccination campaign is a cover for an operation more harmful.
But more Russians seem to believe the vaccines have been rushed to the market, or that the coronavirus outbreak is being exaggerated. In the same Levada Center survey, 55% of Russians said they were not particularly afraid of getting sick with the coronavirus.
Others postponed the vaccination, saying they were waiting to see what the long-term health side effects were. A common refrain has been to “wait for the Chumakov vaccine,” which received a PR boost in part because it was produced in the lab named after a Soviet doctor who helped develop the oral polio vaccine. in the 1950s.
“We have to stress that there is very little superstitious fear about the vaccine,” a Levada Center researcher told Sever Real, part of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. “It’s not the most important [factor] and the response “I don’t trust any vaccine” is that of a minority. “