Russian health officials have launched booster vaccinations for people who were sick with COVID-19 or were 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.
“Given today’s difficult epidemiological situation, doctors recommend a booster shot six months after vaccination,” Sobyanin said on his blog. “I beg you not to miss the opportunity to receive additional protection from the virus, which is especially important amid the spread of the more aggressive Delta variant.”
Moscow health officials on Thursday began offering booster shots with the domestically produced, two-shot Sputnik V vaccine and its one-shot Sputnik Lite version. Other Russian regions are also starting to deliver booster shots.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said at a government meeting on Tuesday that the ministry has issued guidelines that allow people with COVID-19 to be vaccinated six months after they have been cured, and those who need to be vaccinated after their first vaccination. Six months later to get a booster shot has been vaccinated.
The new guidelines come as infections in Russia and vaccination rates lag behind many other countries.
Russian officials have attributed the rise in cases to Russians’ lax attitude toward precautions, the increasing prevalence of more infectious forms, and hesitation to vaccinate. Although Russia was among the first to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine, more than 23 million people – or 15% of its 146 million population – have received at least one shot.
Russia’s vaccination rates have spiked in recent weeks, after authorities in several sectors made shots mandatory for employees in some sectors such as government offices, retail, health care, education, restaurants and other services.
Confirming his position that vaccination should be voluntary, Putin insisted that compulsory vaccination for some workers was based on legislation and hoped it could help prevent nationwide lockdowns.
Vaccinations were ramped up in the past days after several Russian regions reported shortages, 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 issued in circulation in Russia, and 30 million are expected to be produced in July.