Skeptics in Russia don’t fully trust Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
Like many Moscow residents, Davlatmo Khadamshoyeva has her doubts about the coronavirus vaccines developed in Russia and is in no rush to get vaccinated. “I haven’t been hit yet. I really don’t trust him,” the 23-year-old, who was not wearing a mask, told AFP outside an iconic shopping center on Red Square. “The vaccine has not yet been fully tested,” said the international relations student. Russia, to great fanfare, registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, in August 2020.
Named after the world’s first satellite launched by the USSR in 1957, President Vladimir Putin has touted Sputnik as “the best” jab in the world, while the leading independent medical journal, The Lancet, deemed it effective in a published study. in February.
In addition to Sputnik, Russian scientists have also developed two more vaccines.
Still, authorities in Moscow and other cities face an uphill battle to win over skeptics like Khadamshoyeva.
Putin on Wednesday urged Russians to put aside their doubts and get vaccinated, saying Russia’s vaccines were “the most reliable and safest” in the world.
“The most important thing is health. Please think about it,” said Putin, 68.
Russians cite a variety of reasons for not getting vaccinated, from the belief that they will be injected with a tracking microchip to the fear that it will cause a genetic mutation.
But independent sociologists said the vaccinations were a sign of deep social unrest and evidence of a breakdown in trust between Russians and authorities after decades of Kremlin propaganda.
“The rejection of the vaccine is a consequence of the relationship between the Russians and the authorities,” said Alexei Levinson, principal investigator at the Levada Center, Russia’s leading independent pollster.
Much of the mistrust stems from people’s belief that, for authorities, politics trump health concerns, he told AFP, and that the development of the vaccine was rushed to boost the foreign policy credentials of the government. Kremlin.
In Moscow, vaccines are available free of charge to Russians who want them, with vaccination centers set up in prominent locations, including parks and shopping malls. At the GUM mall on Red Square, a hit comes with free ice cream.
The authorities have also introduced some incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated, including free airline miles and small cash payments to the elderly.
In a video last week, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin implored Muscovites to get vaccinated, saying that the percentage of people vaccinated in Moscow was the lowest of any European city.
Of some 12 million Moscow residents, only 1.3 million have been vaccinated, he said.
“People keep dying, but they don’t want to get vaccinated,” the mayor said.
According to a Levada-Center poll, 62 percent of Russians are reluctant to get vaccinated and 56 percent of Russians are not afraid of contracting the coronavirus.
Natalya Yevtushenko, a 55-year-old yoga instructor, said she had recovered from a severe case of the coronavirus but had no immediate plans to get vaccinated.
Viruses “come and go,” he said.
“If you have a weak immune system, of course, it will bring you down.”
Russia in the Soviet era was a vaccine powerhouse and, together with the United States, helped rid the world of polio.
But since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has struggled to innovate, and experts say recent healthcare reforms, including restructuring and closing hospitals, have made things worse.
I’d rather wait
Foreign-made coronavirus vaccines are not available in Russia, and while many say they are not against getting vaccinated in principle, they would be more easily convinced if there was a foreign alternative available.
Ania Bukina, a 35-year-old marketing director, said she believes the health reforms had likely damaged the integrity of Russian medicine and there was little information about the possible side effects of Sputnik.
“I prefer to wait until other vaccines are available and there is more data,” Bukina told AFP.
About 11 million people are fully vaccinated in the country of 144 million, according to data collected by the Gogov monitoring site.
Russia has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
Russia had recorded around 250,000 virus-related deaths as of the end of March, according to statistics agency Rosstat.
But some experts say the country underreports deaths from coronavirus.
Even the pharmaceutical industry stakeholders in Russia say that the low acceptance of the vaccine is a result of how the country has promoted its vaccine.
“If you constantly talk about the failures of other countries’ vaccines as they have been doing on our televisions, then this leads to mistrust of vaccines in general,” said Anton Gopka, Russian co-founder of the biotech-based investment firm. In New York. ATEM Capital.