Putin rules out compulsory coronavirus vaccinations

·2-min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured May 21, 2021) urged Russians to cast away any remaining doubts and said that the Russian vaccines were "the most reliable and safest" in the world

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday issued a new plea for Russians to get vaccinated against the coronavirus but stressed that the jabs would not become compulsory.

Russia registered the world's first coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V in August 2020, but vaccine scepticism is a major problem in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Last week Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said Moscow was the first world capital to launch a mass vaccination campaign.

However, of Moscow's some 12 million residents, only 1.3 million had been vaccinated and the percentage of those vaccinated in the Russian capital was lower than in any European city, he said.

Speaking at a government meeting on Wednesday, Putin urged Russians to cast away any remaining doubts and said that the Russian vaccines were "the most reliable and safest" in the world.

"The most important thing is health. Please think about it," 68-year-old Putin said.

But the Kremlin chief also said he was against compulsory vaccinations.

"Citizens should themselves understand this need, realise that if they do not get vaccinated they can face a very serious and even deadly danger," he added.

Sociologists at Levada-Centre, a leading independent pollster, say Russians are reluctant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons but also point out that vaccine refusal is a sign of growing "alienation" between ordinary people and authorities.

Many Russians believe that the development of the Sputnik vaccine has been rushed to burnish Moscow's foreign policy credentials.

In addition to Sputnik, Russia has developed two other vaccines -- EpiVacCorona and CoviVac.

In Moscow, vaccines are available for free to anyone who wants them, with vaccination centres set up at prominent sites including shopping malls and parks.

The country has lifted nearly all virus-related restrictions and many Russians are refusing to wear masks on public transport and in other public places.

Russia has been among the countries hardest hit by Covid-19.

As of Wednesday, Russian health officials had reported more than 5 million coronavirus cases and more than 119,000 deaths.

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