Russia boasted last year of being first in the world to authorise a coronavirus vaccine, but it now finds itself lagging in getting its population immunised. That has cast doubt on whether authorities will reach their ambitious goal of vaccinating more than 30 million of country’s 146 million people by mid-June and nearly 69 million by August.
Daria Litinova reports for Associated Press that the vaccine reluctance comes as shots are readily available in Moscow to anyone 18 or older at more than 200 state and private clinics, shopping malls, food courts, hospitals
As of mid-April, over 1 million of Moscow’s 12.7 million residents, or about 8%, have received at least one shot. That percentage is similar for Russia as a whole, putting Russia far behind the US, where 43% have had at least one shot, and the European Union with nearly 27%.
Data analyst Alexander Dragan, who tracks vaccinations across Russia, said last week the country was giving shots to 200,000-205,000 people a day. In order to hit the mid-June target, it needs to be nearly double that. “We need to start vaccinating 370,000 people a day, like, beginning tomorrow,” Dragan said.
Russia’s lagging vaccination rates hinge on several factors, including supply. Russian drug makers have been slow to ramp up mass production, and there were shortages in March in many regions. So far, only 28m two-dose sets of the three vaccines available in Russia have been produced
To boost demand, Moscow officials began offering coupons worth 1,000 rubles (£9.50) to those over 60 who get vaccinated – not a small sum for those receiving monthly pensions of about 20,000 rubles.
Still, it hasn’t generated much enthusiasm. Some elderly Muscovites told AP it was difficult to register online for the coupons or find grocery stores that accepted them.
Other regions also are offering incentives. Authorities in Chukotka, across the Bering Strait from Alaska, promised seniors 2,000 rubles for getting vaccinated, while the neighbouring Magadan region offered 1,000 rubles. A theatre in St Petersburg offered discounted tickets for those presenting a vaccination certificate.
Government statistics say Covid infections in Russia have stayed at about 8,000-9,000 per day nationwide, with 300-400 deaths recorded daily. But new cases have been steadily increasing in Moscow in the past month, exceeding 3,000 last week for the first time since January.
Infection rates are growing in seven regions, deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova said on 23 April, without identifying them. She blamed “insufficient vaccination rates” in some places.