Which country should never have existed?

Russia in the corona crisis: As if Corona had never existed

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Anyone who penetrates to the fifth floor of the St. Petersburg Newsky Center has to pass jam-packed cosmetic stores, fashion stores and a delicatessen supermarket. The department store on the magnificent Nevsky Prospect promenade is already well attended in the afternoon. The top floor, on the other hand, looks like a small oasis of calm. In a room with white walls, between a bed shop and a coffee house, an air conditioner hums softly.

Nurse Natalija welcomes the visitors at a counter. "If you want to be vaccinated today, you just have to register with me. Now we have a waiting time of 15 minutes," she says. But almost all of the appointments are also free for the next day. The procedure, including the check-up and a short waiting time after the injection, takes a maximum of one hour.

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Natalija works at the Lachta private clinic in Petersburg, which operates one of the four city vaccination centers in department stores. The idea of ​​the clinic management: municipal hospitals should be relieved at the start of the vaccination campaign in spring with fast, free and unbureaucratic vaccinations for everyone. The vaccination center in the Newsky Center is well equipped with its own cooling chamber for Sputnik V and also with professional staff, say the operators. The vaccine itself is also sufficiently available. The only thing missing are those who want to be vaccinated. Only three people have taken a seat in the waiting room of the vaccination center. In the next half hour only five men and women came to register for the vaccination.

The Russian vaccination campaign has stalled badly. While there was a lack of vaccine in the spring and many regions far away from the metropolises of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg had to wait weeks for deliveries, the Russians are now in no great hurry.

The number of those willing to vaccinate has fallen from 40 to 26 percent

In St. Petersburg alone, daily vaccination numbers peaked a month ago at just under 8,000. At the beginning of May they dropped to an average of 3,000. In the capital Moscow, where queues once formed in front of the vaccination centers, the proportion of those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine is just 10.2 percent. There are no official vaccination statistics for all of Russia. However, journalists from the Gogov.ru portal, who collect reports from the individual regions, are currently receiving around 170,000 first vaccinations per day nationwide. That would mean that it would take until the summer of 2022 for at least half of the people in Russia to be vaccinated.

That was not always so. As recently as April, it looked as if the vaccination campaign in Russia would finally pick up speed. Elwira Latipowa has just had her first vaccination at the private vaccination station in the Nevsky Center. "I was here three times in April and each time I would have had to wait in line and I didn't have time for that," explains the woman in her mid-forties. This time everything went within 40 minutes. "I stopped by spontaneously and was right there," says the Russian.

The declining need to vaccinate the Russian women recently also found out independent pollsters. Since the first Sputnik V vaccine was registered in Russia last August, the private Levada Institute has regularly asked about the willingness in the country to be immunized. Accordingly, the number of those who would not be vaccinated with Sputnik V is currently the highest at 62 percent. Ten percent say that they have already had the vaccination, which roughly corresponds to the official reports on the vaccination doses that have already been administered. The number of those who currently want to be vaccinated has fallen from almost 40 percent to 26 percent compared to December 2020.

"That has less to do with distrust of the Russian vaccine," explains Denis Volkov, deputy director of the Levada Institute. "Instead, people have lost their fear of Corona." This is also borne out by the latest Levada figures. Last October, only a good 30 percent of those surveyed were not afraid of being infected. This value has risen to 56 percent since then. "In in-depth interviews, we find that there are many people who hope that the corona pandemic will go away on its own. Many see that there are hardly any restrictions anymore. The view that the government is putting significantly more pressure on is also widespread the vaccination campaign would make, the situation would actually be so serious, "explains Volkov.