Why many in Russia have doubts about their own Sputnik V Vaccine

Why many in Russia have doubts about their own Sputnik V Vaccine

When the authorities in the town of Sputnik recently announced that they would offer the Russian vaccine Sputnik V at the local clinic, only 28 retirees signed up to receive the dose against covid-19.

Overseas interest in the Russian vaccine has skyrocketed since data published in the Lancet medical journal showed it had 91.6% efficacy against coronavirus, at the level of the best in the world.

That endorsement was a political as well as scientific success for a prestigious project announced with great fanfare by Moscow and one that many in the West openly doubted.

But at the same time that Latin American and European countries are calling for batches of Sputnik, the rollout in Russia itself is slow as people show themselves very reluctant to be injected.

Galina Bordadymova, public representative of the people of Sputnik is proud of the scientific advance that Russia has achieved with the Sputnik V vaccine.

Sputnik

“Everyone scared me saying it was going to hurt, but I didn’t feel anything!” Exclaimed an elderly pensioner as he put on his sweater after receiving the Sputnik injection in the town of the same name.

Behind him, a nurse leaned in to yell at another retiree that he should stop drinking for a while after the injection.

A couple of hours drive from Moscow, the town of Sputnik has a cattle farm, a few identical apartment blocks, and no indication why it was named after a Soviet space race triumph.

In the town of Sputnik they distrust the vaccine. They are not alone: ​​only 30% of Russians are willing to get the Russian vaccine, according to a survey.

In the town of Sputnik they distrust the vaccine. They are not alone: ​​only 30% of Russians are willing to get the Russian vaccine, according to a survey.

The cosmic link to the vaccine is clearer.

“The Sputnik satellite [1957] was a groundbreaking innovation and this vaccine is too”, laughs the local leader Galina Bordadymova, bundled up in fur but without gloves in the chill of the street.

“We had expected 25 people to come, but we have got 28, so we are happy,” she insists, ignoring the comment that interest was worryingly low in a population of more than 1,000 people, taking into account the high risk of the coronavirus.

Her team had appealed to older residents, prioritizing those most vulnerable to the virus. “Anyone who wanted the vaccine could get it,” says Bordadymova.

International interest

At first, Western analysts were dismissive, even derogatory, with respect to Sputnik V, since the Russian representatives made emphatic assertions on an issue for which scant evidence was available at the time.

Data from phase III trials later showed that the vaccine is effective, with side effects similar to those developed in Europe and the United States, and interest abroad has increased.

“Even our critics have run out of arguments,” Kirill Dmitriev, director of the state investment fund RDIF, which backs Sputnik, said last month.

Russian authorities have deployed temporary vaccination centers in shopping malls to speed up the campaign.

Russian authorities have deployed temporary vaccination centers in shopping malls to speed up the campaign.

The RDIF claims 39 countries have already approved its vaccine and, to Russia’s delight, it is even being asked to help the EU, which is suffering from shortages.

Hungary was the first to approve the Russian vaccine for emergency use and Slovakia has just received two million doses, overlooking the possibility that Sputnik will serve Russia as a “tool” to exert influence.

Covid-19 does not care about geopolitics, argued Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic.

“It can be said that it is an instrument of Russia or that the vaccine is just a victim of the political context, but definitely politics is more explicitly present in the case of the Russian vaccine than in any other produced in the world today”, says Andrei Kortunov, of the Council of International Affairs of Russia.

Yet Russia now has so many requests from Sputnik that the Kremlin claims it cannot meet them all with current production capacity.

The RDIF says it will supply foreign markets from plants abroad, not with doses destined for Russians, but has not yet given details or a timetable.

“For Putin, finding the vaccine was a way of showing the world that Russia is a developed country and of great scope, capable of achieving great success in areas that require a lot of knowledge and technology ”, considers Tatiana Stanovaya, from the R.Politik consultancy.

But Sputnik’s approval across the EU remains a tough target.

“When you decide to buy the Russian vaccine, it seems that the achievements of the Putin regime or Putin himself are reversed or approved,” he says.

There is great international demand for the Russian vaccine, which many interpret as an achievement by President Vladimir Putin to show Russia as a powerful country. (Getty Images).

There is great international demand for the Russian vaccine, which many interpret as an achievement by President Vladimir Putin to show Russia as a powerful country.

Russian precautions

In the village of Sputnik there is no such discussion about politics and vaccines.

Some residents are nervous about the possibility of contracting the coronavirus: Two locals in their 50s died from the virus in the first wave of the pandemic.

But its inhabitants seem even more fearful of getting vaccinated.

A survey conducted this week by sociologists at the Levada Center revealed that only the 30% of Russians are willing to receive Sputnik V, 8% less since the health deployment began, and that despite the fact that the data on their safety are already public.

There have been campaigns to promote vaccination, but only four million Russians have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far.

There have been campaigns to promote vaccination, but only four million Russians have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far.

“People are afraid; there are all kinds of rumors about complications, ”explains Lidia Nikolaevna as she brushes a thick layer of snow from her garage door.

She was recently in the hospital for covid, so her doctor says she doesn’t need a puncture herself yet.

Maybe later” Lidia ventured, echoing other villagers.

“People say it’s okay, but let’s see. If all goes well, I think more people will get vaccinated”.

“Russians are conservative: they don’t trust their own state and they don’t trust what can come out of this state ”, says Andrei Kortunov about the indecision of the people.

In the absence of a new national confinement, and due to the few allusions to the deaths by covid that the authorities make, they could be forgiven for thinking that the danger has passed.

State television has not been deployed with all its persuasive force and the president himself, Vladimir Putin, has not yet been vaccinated.

The vaccine, called Sputnik-V, was developed by the Gamaleya Institute and was registered after two months of human trials. (EPA).

The vaccine, called Sputnik-V, was developed by the Gamaleya Institute and was registered after two months of human trials.

So, despite the fact that the operation reaches even the most remote points, such as Sputnik, and the mobile vaccination points in the commercial centers of the cities, only four million Russians have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far.

Far below the goal of the Ministry of Health, which is to reach 60% of all adults in six months.

The Kremlin insists that there is no shortage of vaccines for home use.

But his description of production and domestic demand as “in harmony” for “this stage” suggests some reluctance to promote the vaccination campaign too intensively As long as there are no more blisters rolling down the factory conveyor belts.

Back home from the Sputnik village clinic, retired Anatoly says getting his injection was no big deal.

“It was only a moment,” he says, making the gesture of receiving a puncture in the arm, but he doubts he really needed to get vaccinated.

“I’m healthy! You just have to drink samogon, ”insists Anatoly, referring to high-proof homemade alcohol.

“I think that will also protect me from covid,” laughs the 74-year-old, before walking away through the snow.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.