Amid surge in Covid-19 cases, Russians left unvaccinated. Here's why

Covid-19 surge in Russia: The Vladimir Putin government in Moscow has ruled out the idea of a nationwide lockdown and is instead relying on measures like reintroducing the QR code system in some regions for access to public spaces.
A food delivery courier walks in front of Christ the Saviour cathedral, the main Russian Orthodox church in central Moscow, on October 18, 2021, amid the outbreak of Covid-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
A food delivery courier walks in front of Christ the Saviour cathedral, the main Russian Orthodox church in central Moscow, on October 18, 2021, amid the outbreak of Covid-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
Published on Oct 19, 2021 08:38 AM IST
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Written by Joydeep Bose | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Russia, one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, has a low vaccination figure, which is reportedly fueled by widespread mistrust of the treatment and lacklustre government measures. According to official figures, only 32 per cent of Russians are fully vaccinated, while the country continues hitting record statistics in terms of Covid-19 figures. As many as 34,325 new cases were recorded nationwide in Russia on Monday, a record in the daily tally for the fifth day running. The death toll, too, increased by 998, a number just short of the over 1,000 deaths recorded on Saturday.

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Reporting on the Covid-19 situation in Russia, the New York Times, citing pollsters and sociologists, pointed out that the country's low vaccination rate is a reflection of the “prevalent mistrust in Russian authorities” that has metastasised since the pandemic began last year. At 32 per cent, Russia's vaccination rate shows that only one-third of the entire country's population (42 million inhabitants, according to an estimate put forth by Russia's prime minister Mikhail Mushustin last week) has been vaccinated so far, despite free Covid-19 shots being made available on part of the government.

Denis Volkov, the director of an independent polling operation, told NYT that an estimated 40 per cent of Russians have no trust in their government, and these people are an active constituent of the group most reluctant to take the Covid-19 vaccine. This same operation had estimated in one of its August polls that about 52 per cent of Russians are uninterested in getting the vaccines administered.

According to the experts, skepticism regarding the Sputnik V vaccine may also be responsible for the low vaccination rate in Russia, considering the fact that Western vaccines, like those made by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, are not available in the country. There was also an unusual speed and secretive process behind the development of Sputnik V in Russia, reported the Science magazine; its approval was met with criticism in mass media and discussions in the scientific community as to whether distributing the vaccine was justified “in the absence of robust scientific research confirming safety and efficacy.”

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The Vladimir Putin government in Moscow has ruled out the idea of a nationwide lockdown and is instead relying on measures like reintroducing the QR code system in some regions for access to public spaces. Russia's second-largest city - Saint Petersburg - has announced that from November 1, people will need to present a QR code to get into sports and cultural events, where more than 40 people are gathering. Only people who have been fully vaccinated or who have had a negative Covid-19 test in the past 72 hours will receive the QR code.

Experts, meanwhile, say that the true Covid-19 death toll in Russia may be significantly higher than the official figure. The Rosstat statistics institute, which uses a broader definition of what constitutes a coronavirus death, has put the toll at more than 400,000.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021