In Bryansk, a small town 400 km south of Moscow, hospitals and clinics would like to follow President Vladimir Putin’s order that Russia’s Covid-19 vaccination program must now shift from a “large-scale vaccination” To a “mass” vaccination.
But they just don’t have the shots.
“There are clinics here officially offering the vaccine that don’t actually vaccinate,” said Vadim, a city doctor who spoke to the Financial Times. “[The doctors] will tell you that at present we have no vaccine available because we have used them all. . . But the vaccine was never available. “
As the Russian government says 1.5 million vaccines have been distributed and hundreds of thousands of more doses are ready to ship, doctors and officials across the country are describing a much darker reality of limited supplies and delays in delivery.
Russia has 3.5 million cases of Covid-19, the fourth highest number in the world, and this week has seen around 23,000 new cases every day.
The distribution gaps further slowed down vaccinations already slowed down by caution among the Russians towards their state-developed jab. According to a poll released last month by the Levada Center, an independent Russian pollster, only 38% are ready to get the vaccine.
Sputnik V, developed in a state-run laboratory, funded by the country’s sovereign wealth fund and endorsed by Mr Putin who approved it before he even completed his trials, was designed to avoid the problems plaguing other European governments competing for manufactured vaccines by pharmaceutical companies, or bickering over how to split bulk orders.
And while clinics in Moscow have been busy vaccinating those who want it, areas outside the capital have struggled to secure adequate supplies, questioning the government’s ability to come together. Mr. Putin’s demands.
During a council of ministers broadcast live on public television on Wednesday, the 68-year-old president, who has not yet been vaccinated, instructed the ministers “to start mass vaccinations of the entire population as soon as possible. next week”.
Russian officials said 1.5 million people have been vaccinated with Sputnik V worldwide, but declined to say how many are in Russia, a country of 144 million. On January 5, the creator of the vaccine said 1m of Russians had been inoculated. Official data is not accessible to the public: by the law, coronavirus vaccination statistics are kept in a confidential database.
But data from individual regions and evidence from regional doctors suggest Russia vaccinated far less than expected.
The Krasnoyarsk region, a massive Siberian state larger than Mexico, said this week it had only received 6,242 doses of the vaccine. This equates to one per 450 residents. The Leningrad region, which surrounds St. Petersburg, received a vaccine for 395 inhabitants. The region has only six clinics offering vaccination – Moscow has 100.
“On television they say they are vaccinating people somewhere in Siberia, schoolchildren in Moscow, teachers and medical staff, members of government organizations, so to speak,” said Irina, a doctor at a hospital. near Yekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia. , who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“But no vaccine was provided [here] so far and the hospital authorities haven’t told us anything, ”she told FT. “When asked [our bosses] answer that they don’t know anything, that there is no vaccine available and that it is not known when the vaccine will be sent.
Tatiana Golikova, Russian Deputy Prime Minister who is leading the government’s response to the coronavirus, told Mr Putin that mass vaccinations would start next week and that 600,000 more doses would be available by the end of the month, to take the total number of vaccines distributed. at 2.1 m.
“Work on increasing production and supply to the regions will continue,” she added.
Regional doctors also expressed their anger at a series of proclamations from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which funded Sputnik V and is manage its export sales, on promises to deliver millions of doses to countries like Serbia, Brazil and Bolivia, even as clinics outside Moscow are private.
“Of course, you should first worry about your own people and vaccinate them before you help others,” Irina said. RDIF did not respond to FT’s questions regarding the distribution of Sputnik V.
In Moscow, where supplies to clinics have been strong, the city has repeatedly expanded the number of people who can receive the vaccine, with the aim of increasing the number of people vaccinated. The mayor of Moscow said on January 1 that 50,000 residents of the capital had been vaccinated and that he expected the total to increase by 10,000 every day. The population of Moscow is approximately 14 million.
In a handful of downtown clinics visited by the FT this week that offered vaccinations, waiting rooms were swarming with a dozen people. There were no queues outside and patients could enter without an appointment.
Pavel, a 61-year-old retiree, only waited half an hour at Polyclinic 46 in town after having his documents checked, before embarking on the three-minute consultation and vaccination.
“It was very easy, very simple,” he said, as a man walked out of an immunization room with a certificate. “Anyone can get it.”