Russia launches booster shots amid soaring infections

Russian health authorities have launched booster vaccination for those who had been sick with COVID-19 or immunized more than six months ago, an effort that comes amid a surge in new infections and deaths

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he had received a booster shot and urged city residents to follow suit.

“In view of the difficult epidemiological situation today, doctors recommend having booster shots six months after vaccination,” Sobyanin said on his blog. “I’m pleading with you not to miss a chance to get additional protection from the virus, which is particularly important amid the spread of a more aggressive delta variant.”

Moscow health authorities on Thursday started offering booster shots with the domestically produced, two-shot Sputnik V vaccine and its one-shot Sputnik Light version. Other Russian regions are also starting to offer booster shots.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a government meeting Tuesday that the ministry has issued guidelines allowing those who contracted COVID-19 to get vaccinated six months after they recovered, and those who have been immunized to get booster shots six months after their first vaccination.

The new guidelines come as infections in Russia soar and vaccination rates lag behind many other nations.

Russian officials have blamed the rise in cases on Russians’ lax attitude toward taking precautions, the growing prevalence of more infectious variants and vaccination hesitancy. Although Russia was among the first countries to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine, just over 23 million people — or 15% of its 146 million population — have received at least one shot.

Russia’s vaccination rates have picked up in recent weeks, after authorities in many regions made shots mandatory for employees in certain sectors, such as government offices, retail, health care, education, restaurants and other services.

While reaffirming his position that vaccinations should be voluntary, Putin emphasized that mandatory vaccination for some workers was based on the law and voiced hope that it could help prevent a nationwide lockdown.

A spike in vaccination over the past days was quickly followed by reports of shortages in a number of Russian regions, and some experts have questioned whether Russia will have enough vaccines to go around.

Officials said earlier this week that 36.7 million sets of four domestically-developed coronavirus vaccines have been released into circulation in Russia, and 30 more million are expected to be produced in July.

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