© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People line up to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination center at Globus Shopping Center in Vladimir, Russia on July 15, 2021. REUTERS/Polina Nikolskaya
Written by Polina Nikolskaya
VLADIMIR, Russia (Reuters) – Three times over a 10-day period, Alexander tried to get his first dose of Russia’s fifth coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik, in his hometown of Vladimir. Supplies ran out twice while standing in line.
“People line up from 4 a.m. even though the center opens at 10 a.m.,” said the 33-year-old, as he finally entered the city’s vaccination room, where its golden-domed medieval churches naturally attract crowds of tourists. Years.
The third wave of COVID-19 infections has raised daily reported deaths in Russia to record levels in recent weeks, and sluggish demand for vaccines from an anxious population is finally beginning to grow with a major official push to boost uptake.
The switch presents a challenge for Russia, which has signed contracts to supply Sputnik V to countries around the world.
With vaccination now mandatory in some Russian regions for people working in jobs that involve close contact with the public such as waiters and taxi drivers, a shortage has emerged.
“At the last minute we all decided to receive the vaccination at the same time. This caused a problem,” Maria Koltunova, representative of the Vladimir Regional Health Monitoring Organization, Rospotrebnadzor, told reporters on July 16.
Late last month, after several Russian regions reported vaccine shortages, the Kremlin blamed them for soaring demand and storage difficulties that it said would be resolved in the coming days.
At appointment offices at four clinics in different cities in the wider Vladimir region last week, Reuters was told that no shots are available at this time. The earliest available appointments were next month, and they all said they couldn’t make an appointment.
The Ministry of Industry said it was working with the Ministry of Health to fill the demand gap in the places where it jumped. The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment.
The Ministry of Industry said Russia produces 30 million batches of doses per month, and could gradually increase this to a monthly figure of 45-40 million doses over the next few months.
In all, nearly 44 million complete doses of all vaccines have been released to vaccinate 144 million people in Russia, the Industry Minister said last week.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday ordered the government to check available vaccines.
The country does not provide data on vaccine exports, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad, declined to comment.
A laboratory in India said last week that the country’s full rollout would have to be suspended until the Russian producer provides equal amounts of two doses, which are different sizes.
Argentina and Guatemala also reported delays in promised supplies.
Despite the launch of the vaccine in January and the approval of four domestic vaccines for home use, Russia gave only about 21% of its total population at once by July 9, according to data provided by Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, although counting only adults, that would to be higher.
The Kremlin earlier referred to “nihilism” among the population. Some Russians indicated a lack of confidence in both new drugs and government programmes.
Data provided by local officials showed that about 12 percent of the 1.4 million people in the Vladimir region, 200 km east of Moscow, had been vaccinated by July 12. Some people said the sudden rise in demand for the footage was due to a series of government policies.
This included a one-week regional requirement to prove a recent COVID-19 vaccination or recovery using QR codes to enter cafes and other venues. The policy was canceled amid protest from business and a shortage of vaccines.
The region has also ordered some public sector and service sector companies to vaccinate at least 60% of their employees with a single dose by August 15. Cafe owners Dmitry Bolshakov and Alexander Yuryev said that oral recommendations came earlier.
Alexander, a lucky third-time vaccinator, who only gave his first name due to the sensitivity of the problem, said he queued to take the shot on his own after his local clinic said it wouldn’t be able to provide it until late August.
But nine of the 12 people contacted by Reuters at the city’s vaccination centers said they did not want to be vaccinated but were pressured by their employers. The local governor’s office and the Health Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In one of Vladimir’s cafes called ZZZed, the owner of Yuriev, along with officials, created a vaccination center, starting with city restaurant workers. People filled out their consent forms while sitting in the bar, under a disco ball.
“We have a queue now of about 1,000 people,” Yuryev said. With demand growing, the shortage of shots is the next hurdle. “We are constrained by the lack of vaccines in the region,” he said.
The head of the local health watchdog, Yulia Potsilova, told reporters on July 16 that the vaccine supply problem would be resolved in the near future.