Supporting Vaccine Hesitancy Abroad While Demanding Mandatory Vaccination at Home
Pro-Kremlin outlets continue to support foreign vaccine hesitancy. Russia based English-language outlets such as the Strategic Culture Foundation and One World Think Tank have published articles suggesting the vaccines are a covert campaign for “depopulation” or describing western policies on the vaccine as “hybrid aggression” towards Russia.
Since last summer, when Russia’s President proudly declared that the country had managed to create the world’s first effective and safe vaccine, marketing it has become a national priority for the Russian state. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become the world’s largest advertising agency. A Google search for the term “Sputnik V” yields over 3,000 hits from the Russian MFA website, and the Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, sells the vaccine at virtually all her weekly briefings.
Not Buying what the Kremlin is Selling
Russian state officials and pro-Kremlin outlets have persistently attempted to describe Russia’s battle against the pandemic as a model for the world, and their vaccine as superior to anything the West has produced. Russian officials even made baseless accusations against the EU for deliberately impeding the marketing of Sputnik V. Kremlin-controlled outlets have repeatedly highlighted the dangers of foreign vaccines. Now, reality is catching up with propaganda. Bad-mouthing foreign vaccines has not improved confidence in the domestic alternatives. What the Kremlin is selling, the Russian people are not buying. Already in September 2020, a poll from the independent Levada Center showed a strong distrust in the Sputnik V vaccine among Russians.
To date, just over 10 per cent of Russia’s population is fully vaccinated, according to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University. The median for the EU is close to 30 per cent.
Russian state broadcasters have attacked foreign vaccines fiercely, scaring the audience with lethal side effects. Now, pro-Kremlin outlets blame the West for causing the slow roll-out of the vaccines in Russia. Russian authorities have been reluctant to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy. Russia’s President has declared that vaccination must be voluntary:
In my view, introducing mandatory vaccination is not useful. The citizens must understand themselves that they might face serious and even lethal dangers without the vaccine.
In early June, the Speaker of the Russian Parliament Vyacheslav Volodin suggested the introduction of legislation making mandatory vaccination illegal in Russia.
Firstly, we need to secure cost-free vaccinations against the coronavirus and make them accessible. Secondly, we need to secure citizens’ rights to be vaccinated voluntarily.
Silencing the Statistics
Now, the circumstances have changed dramatically. Since early June, Russia has experienced a hike in the number of cases of COVID-19.
The situation seems to be most urgent in the large cities. The authorities in St. Petersburg, one of the host cities of the ongoing European Football Championship, ceased publishing data on the pandemic in early June.
Moscow City and Region, with some 20 million inhabitants, have now decided to disregard the instructions from the Kremlin by making vaccinations mandatory for employees in several sectors. Companies and individuals failing to abide will be fined.
Russia’s Ministry of Health is recommending citizens have a third jab of Sputnik V. In several cases, the levels of antibodies of people vaccinated early have dwindled to insufficient levels. Among those – the Editor-in-Chief of RT and Sputnik, Margarita Simonyan:
I got revaccinated. I had the two first jabs in September. High level of antibodies. I lead an active life, broadcasts, travels, fora, conferences, weddings, meeting new people daily, some literally going down with COVID the next day. I did not catch anything. I was not ill. Recently I checked my antibodies: their levels had fallen sharply. So I went and had a third jab.
While Simonyan gets a top-up of Sputnik V and the Russian authorities step up restrictions and make the vaccine mandatory, Simonyan’s outlet, RT, is still happy to give room to views attacking the West for unnecessary COVID-19 restrictions:
This is a mistake. The scientific argument for delay [of easing restrictions in the UK] is dubious, and there is also a strong economic argument for the counter. So come on Boris, be bold rather than meek, give us back our freedom and let our lives return to normal because we have suffered long enough.
New Eastern Outlook, an outlet linked to the Russian Academy of Sciences, has also continued to push vaccine conspiracies, well after Russian authorities decided on mandatory vaccination:
While mainstream media ignores alarming data including the deaths of countless healthy young victims, the politics of the corona vaccine are being advanced by Washington and Brussels along with WHO and the Vaccine Cartel with all the compassion of a mafia “offer you can’t refuse”.
This week also saw a surge in cases attacking Ukraine. Most follow the beaten track, repeating familiar tropes on Crimea’s “referendum”, on the “Coup d’Etat” in Kyiv 2014 and Ukraine as “ruled by Nazis”. We found another prophecy of Ukraine’s imminent collapse this week – a claim documented 200 times since 2015. Still a lie.
This Week’s Most Outrageous Cases:
- The Baltics Should Be Grateful: Soviet Occupation Protected Them from Occupation
- The White Helmets are Preparing a Chemical Attack
- Big Pharma is Orchestrating a Campaign against Sputnik V