| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

Putin not in favor of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations

During an annual phone-in, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russians today, Wednesday, that he does not support mandatory vaccinations, adding that he was vaccinated earlier this year with the country’s homegrown Sputnik vaccine.

The Kremlin said that Putin, 68, received two vaccine shots against COVID-19 in March and April after previously declining to disclose which vaccine he had taken.

Russian authorities have blamed a recent surge in COVID-19 cases on the infectious Delta variant, which they say accounts for around 90 per cent of all new cases, and on the reluctance of many Russians to get vaccinated.

Moscow last week ordered mandatory vaccinations for service industry workers, after only about a million of its 12 million residents got shots in the six months they were available. A host of other Russian regions followed suit.

Russia last August stoked concerns over Sputnik V by registering the vaccine ahead of large-scale clinical trials, but international experts have since declared it safe and effective.

Many Russians are nonetheless wary, with some 60 percent saying they do not plan to be inoculated, according to independent polling.

That sentiment has helped foster a black market on Telegram and Russian darknet forums where dozens of dealers are claiming to sell fake jab certificates and even falsified registration on the government’s vaccination database. While some clients complain of being defrauded, others have left reviews saying everything went as planned.

Russia, which has a population of around 144 million, has approved four domestically-made vaccines and recorded some 5.5 million infections since the start of the pandemic.