Russian President Vladimir Putin examines military aircraft flying over the Kremlin and Red Square to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II in Moscow on May 9, 2020.

Alexey Druzhinin | AFP | Getty Images

Russia will not make Covid vaccines mandatory for its citizens, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday, adding that people should see the need for vaccination for themselves.

Some officials in Russia had suggested making vaccination compulsory, but Putin said Wednesday that the controversial measure was “counterproductive”.

During a video conference on the economy, Putin said officials had analyzed options, including compulsory vaccination for the entire population or for workers in certain sectors who come into contact with large numbers of people, Russian news agency TASS reported.

For example, this could have made Covid recordings mandatory for people who work in retail, education, or transportation. However, Putin said he did not approve of such a move.

“In my opinion it is counterproductive and unnecessary to introduce compulsory vaccinations,” he said, adding that “people should recognize this need for themselves” and understand that without a vaccine they “can be at very serious and even fatal danger”. especially the elderly.

Putin urged the public to get vaccinated, stressing that Russian Sputnik V vaccine is safe.

“I want to emphasize again and address all of our citizens: think carefully, remember that the Russian vaccine – practice has already shown that millions (of people) have used it – is currently the most reliable and safest,” said Putin. “All the conditions for vaccination have been created in our country.”

Vaccine hesitate

Despite requests from the president and other senior officials, as well as the establishment of walk-in vaccination centers in shopping malls in major cities, Russia has found that much of its population is unwilling to receive a Covid shot.

Some officials have tried more unusual means of persuading those who hesitate. Moscow is offering free ice cream to everyone who has been vaccinated in Red Square and buying vouchers or gift cards worth 1000 rubles (about $ 13.60) for retirees. There were also reports of some Russian regions offering cash incentives to get the shot.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin openly expressed his frustration with the slow absorption of vaccinations on his blog.

“It’s remarkable … people get sick, they keep getting sick, they keep dying. And yet they don’t want to get vaccinated,” Sobyanin said in comments posted on a video blog on Friday and reported by Reuters.

“We were the first big city in the world to announce the start of mass vaccination. And what?” Sobyanin said. “The percentage of people vaccinated in Moscow is lower than in any European city. In some cases, many times over.”

He stressed that so far only 1.3 million people in Moscow had received a shot from a population of 12 million.

By May 26, just over 11% of the Russian population had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Our World In Data. This is similar to India, which has also struggled to get its vaccination program off the ground due to production problems, but is lagging behind other major economies. The UK, for example, has both given at least one trick to over 70% of its population.

The home of Sputnik V.

That frustration is more palpable in Russia, as it was one of the first countries in the world to approve its own Covid vaccine, Sputnik V, last August. Initially, there were concerns about the safety and efficacy data of Sputnik V, particularly when Russia approved the shot prior to the completion of clinical trials, which aroused suspicion in the international scientific community.

However, the Sputnik V vaccine was found to be 91.6% effective in preventing people from developing Covid-19. This is evident from the peer-reviewed results of its late-stage clinical study published in The Lancet Medical Journal in February.

Even so, a poll published in March by Russian polling station Levada found that 62% of people did not want to receive the vaccine, with 18- to 24-year-olds showing the greatest reluctance.