Russia will start large-scale vaccinations against the coronavirus as early as October, to the surprise of the international community. What is the current state of the country in the corona crisis?
Russians with essential professions, such as medical and teaching staff, will receive the vaccine as early as August, Moscow announced last weekend.
The government claims that the corona vaccine from the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow has successfully passed all clinical test phases and will be approved by the medical authorities within two weeks. Test results would show that the vaccine induced an immune response in all subjects and did not result in side effects or complications. Russia has not released data on the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine.
Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said to state news agency on Monday TASS that Russia expects to be able to produce several million doses of the vaccine every month from the beginning of next year.
Many eyebrows were raised internationally after the Russian announcement. Among others, White House chief corona adviser Anthony Fauci expressed doubts. “I really hope the Chinese and Russians actually test a vaccine before giving it to anyone,” he told US Congress last Friday. The British newspaper The Telegraph revealed a day later that the British government is likely to thank for a Russian vaccine.
The country was accused last month by the US, Canada and the United Kingdom of attempting electronic theft of vaccine data. The Kremlin denies those allegations.
Government response to crisis was messy
The coronavirus has so far led to nearly 850,000 infections and over 14,000 deaths in Russia, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. Russia is therefore the fourth most affected country in the world in absolute numbers. Experts argue that Russian figures are likely to significantly underestimate the actual death toll.
The virus is not yet under control. 5,394 new cases of infection and 79 deaths were reported last Monday. Relaxation of measures seems to lead to new outbreaks in Russia as well.
The severity of the pandemic was only recognized late in Russia. President Vladimir Putin himself prioritized a referendum on constitutional changes that would leave him in power longer, which he reluctantly shifted from April to June. He left the corona crisis to the regional governors.
The government’s response to the pandemic was relatively slow and messy. The impact of the coronavirus varies widely between different Russian regions. A strict lockdown came into effect in Moscow, but this was not the case in other regions and certainly not in the vast Russian countryside.
The Russian economy was already in severe weather before the outbreak of the crisis and was hit hard by the corona crisis, but now seems to be slowly recovering.
Not everyone is expected to reap the benefits: The Kremlin declines state aid to SMEs, an estimated 20 million Russians are out of work, and the average household is expected to provide a fifth of income, but state-owned enterprises and oligarchs may be their dominant positions in the market are likely to further expand.
No Italian scenes
The Russian health care system has so far weathered the corona crisis without being overwhelmed, as has been the case in Italy, Spain, the US and Brazil. This is mainly due to the enormous capacity of hospital beds, a remnant of the Soviet era.
Medical experts say that in recent years, the Russian government has mainly invested in advanced hospitals in major cities. Medical facilities outside often suffer from poor maintenance, hygiene problems and a lack of basic supplies.
Medical professionals say that health care workers, including medical students, were forced to test and treat patients without being tested themselves or receiving adequate protective materials. The government denies that the corona crisis has led to higher mortality among medical personnel, but a doctors union database reports hundreds of deaths.