Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout draws wary, mixed response
Dr. Yekaterina Kasyanova of Siberia’s Kemerovo region said she didn’t trust it enough to get the shot and has advised her mother, a teacher, not to get it either, adding: “The vaccine is several months old. … Long-term side effects are not known, its effectiveness hasn’t been proven.”
Dzhamilya Kryazheva, a teacher in Krasnogorsk near Moscow, echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t intend to experiment on my body. I have three children,” she said.
For other health care workers, the choice to be vaccinated was easy.
“People are dying here every day. Every day, we carry out corpses. What’s there to think about?” said Dr. Marina Pecherkina, an infectious disease specialist in the Far East city of Vladivostok. She got her shots in October because of her daily work with coronavirus patients.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said more than 6,000 people received the shots in the first five days of vaccinations launched Dec. 5. But some media reports about the first days of the Moscow campaign showed empty clinics and medical workers offering the shots to anyone who walked in. In some instances, this was because the vaccine must be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and each vial contains five doses. Once defrosted, it must be administered within two hours or discarded.
The rollout outside Moscow and the surrounding region appeared to go much slower, with Health Minister Mikhail Murashko declaring that all regions started the vaccination Dec. 15.
Media reports suggested there may be problems with scaling up the manufacture and distribution of Sputnik V. It uses two different adenovirus vectors for the two-shot regimen, which complicates production. In addition, the low-temperature storage and transport makes it harder to move across the vast country.
There also were confused signals about whether recipients should consume alcohol. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said those getting vaccinated should refrain from drinking three days before and after the shots.
Several medical workers in Siberia who received the vaccine later reported contracting the virus, but health officials said not enough time had passed for them to develop the antibodies.
Dr. Yevgenia Alexeyeva in the Siberian city of Tomsk tested positive for the virus 12 days after her second shot. Alexeyeva said she wasn’t surprised by the result and that it didn’t shake her confidence in the vaccine.
“The vaccine doesn’t guarantee that the person wouldn’t get infected. But it should protect us from developing a severe case,” Alexeyeva said.
Vladimir Kondrashov and Anatoly Kozlov in Moscow and Tatyana Salimova in Tomsk contributed.