- Russia is reporting record high death tolls from COVID-19 as the coronavirus rages.
- The country has only vaccinated about a third of its population.
- Many Russians are skeptical of the country’s home-grown shots, hampering vaccine rollouts.
Russia’s COVID-19 death toll reached record highs this week, starkly illustrating how the nation has struggled to handle the pandemic.
Government data showed more than 1,000 daily COVID-19 deaths for two of the past seven days, a grim new high. Unlike many nations with lower death tolls, only around a third of Russians have been fully vaccinated.
Despite the nation’s aggressive promotion of its homegrown vaccines, citizens have largely declined to take them.
Only about 47.5 million Russians have been fully vaccinated, per country data. That’s only about a third of Russia’s 144 million population.
The response to COVID-19 even created a rare streak of dissent inside Russian politics, prompting President Vladimir Putin’s ally and Parliamentary speaker Pyotr O. Tolstoy to attack official efforts, The New York Times reported.
“Unfortunately, we conducted an entire information campaign about the coronavirus in Russia incorrectly and completely lost,” he said on a pro-Kremlin television station on Saturday, per the Times.
“People have no trust to go and get vaccinated, this is a fact,” he said, per the Times.
The country reported more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases a day for the past five days, with 33,740 daily new cases recorded as of Tuesday, according to the Russian government’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Death tolls reached record highs on Saturday with 1,002 recorded COVID-19 deaths, according to the dashboard.
The record was broken again on Tuesday, with 1,015 daily COVID-19 deaths.
Nearly all COVID-19 patients in severe condition were unvaccinated, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said last Tuesday, per the Moscow Times.
Russians have access to four homegrown COVID-19 vaccines Sputnik V, Sputnik V light (Russia’s one-dose vaccine), Epivaccorona, and Covivac.
COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe disease and death. Studies have suggested that the flagship Sputnik V shots has a broadly similar effectiveness to Western vaccines like those made by Pfizer and Moderna.
Widespread mistrust against Russian authorities and misinformation about the vaccines are hampering the uptake of the shots, The New York Times reported Monday.
One Russian citizen, Sofia Kravetskaya, told the Times people were “running away” from her after she got the Sputnik V jab, wrongly thinking it gave her the coronavirus.
The discrepancy in government statistics is also seeding doubt, per the Times.
Russia’s statistics agency, for instance, reported more than 43,500 COVID-19 deaths in August, while another body registered fewer than 25,000, per The Times.
In spite of the high death toll, Russian officials have rejected the idea of nationwide lockdowns, leaving it up to regional authorities to take measures.
St Petersburg on Monday announced it would require vaccine passports to enter some events and public space from November 1, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
38 of 85 Russian regions have imposed some kind of vaccination mandate for public employees, although critics say that not all are being enforced, per the Times.
Putin last week called on parliamentarians to promote vaccination.
“I would like to ask you to be most active in this work, to educate people and speak in the media. People trust and listen to your advice and recommendations.
“We should persistently and patiently work with the people and explain to them the benefits of preventing this dangerous disease,” he said, per WTVA news.