“Well short of government targets”

An interesting piece in The Guardian this morning, by Michael Safi (based in Beirut), Theo Merz (Moscow) and Helen Davidson (Taipei). “Why home-produced Covid vaccine hasn’t helped India, Russia and China rollouts.”

As vaccinations rates soar in Israel, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and other countries that have monopolised supply, and poorer nations make do with a trickle of doses, a third category are beginning long climbs. Supply is less of an issue in Russia, China or India, all of which produce their own vaccines. But their respective government programmes have had slow starts, and there has been little public clamour to speed things up.

As far as “public clamor” may be concerned, I would point at this opinion poll by Levada Center (but read the caveat in this post and note the polling results for August and December 2020):

The number of those who are ready to get vaccinated by Sputnik-V is decreasing. In December 2020 38% were ready to get a vaccine, 58% were not. In February 2021 30% are ready and 62% are not. At the same time, 4% pointed that they have already got a vaccine…

Among those who are afraid of contracting the coronavirus, 37% are ready to get a vaccine and 52% are not…

The poll makes no mention of other vaccines as possible alternatives to Sputnik V, so I would conjecture that some of the reluctance to get vaccinated was due to Russians specifically mistrusting Russian-made drugs. Whatever the reason, the number of Russians unwilling to get a Sputnik grew from 53% in August 2020 to 58-59% in December 2020 to 62% in February 2021.

It’s a remarkable development because from August to February, more empirical data became available on Sputnik as the vaccination campaign rolled out, however slowly. The data, as far as I know, has been reasonably favorable to the vaccine but has failed to warm the Russians towards getting a shot.

At this point, one starts wondering if the Kremlin propaganda machine has made a serious effort to promote Sputnik V at home. Since I don’t watch Russian TV or read Kremlin-sponsored news, I can’t say anything for certain, but I haven’t seen or heard as much as a mention of such effort anywhere, by anybody. The Kremlin is advertising Sputnik internationally and is telling Russians it’s in demand worldwide but doesn’t seem to be aggressively pushing them to get the vaccine.

Why? One explanation I’ve heard is that a faster rollout would cause a shortage of the vaccine, which – among other negatives – would make exporting it politically toxic at home.

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