MOSCOW — Russia must accelerate Covid-19 vaccinations, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Tuesday as the country recorded its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic.
Addressing newly elected lawmakers of the State Duma — Russia’s lower parliament house — Putin urged the deputies who had gathered in the Kremlin to convince the Russian public to get vaccinated as the situation continues to worsen across the vast country.
“You know that the number of infections is growing in many regions and medical specialists are working in difficult conditions. We all know well that vaccination can save us from the virus and from a severe course of the disease. It is necessary to step up the vaccination pace,” Putin said.
“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. It is very important to do this without a tone of administrative reprimand. We should persistently and patiently work with the people and explain to them the benefits of preventing this dangerous disease,” Putin added.
Russia has lagged behind much of the world when it comes to getting its population inoculated, despite being the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, for use in August 2020.
Putin’s directive came on the same day Russia registered 973 deaths over the past 24 hours — the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the country since the start of the pandemic.
Russia has now recorded over 900 deaths a day for seven days in a row. In total, Russia has officially recorded 218,345 coronavirus deaths according to the country’s coronavirus task force — the highest number of deaths in Europe.
The real death toll could be even higher due to the way Russia classifies coronavirus deaths. Rosstat, the Russian statistics agency, records deaths connected to coronavirus where the virus wasn’t the only cause or main cause of death, but Russia’s coronavirus task force doesn’t include those in the official death count.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is in charge of the country’s coronavirus response, said in a televised government meeting on Friday that 47.8 million Russians have received their first shot and only 42.4 million have been fully vaccinated in a country with a population of around 146 million.
A recent survey by independent pollster Levada-Center found 52% of Russians are not ready to get vaccinated against coronavirus with Russian-made vaccines. Russia hasn’t approved any foreign-made coronavirus vaccines yet, and only Russian ones are available across the country.
The reluctance to get vaccinated reflects a broader mistrust of the establishment, Alexandra Arkhipova, a social anthropologist, and researcher at the university RANEPA in Moscow, has previously told CNN.
Russians tend to trust doctors they personally know rather than state medical institutions, she also said.
Thirty-eight Russian regions have introduced mandatory vaccine requirements for certain citizens and workers in public-facing roles, the head of Russia’s public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova said on Tuesday.
The Kremlin has voiced its frustration at the country’s low vaccination rates with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying on Monday “the pandemic is not going away, it is returning in new waves…the only thing that saves lives is the jab.”
Peskov stressed the government is using every opportunity to appeal to Russians to get vaccinated, even urging media outlets to “repeat this a hundred times a day.”
Russian state media has become increasingly critical of people unwilling or undecided about getting vaccinated. Earlier this month, Dmitry Kiselyov, a top Russian anchor on state television told viewers that despite recent records of death figures and infection rates “citizens, for the most part, do not give a damn about themselves or others.”