Speaking on Sunday at a virtual meeting with Francesco Rocca, the head of the Red Cross, Putin declared that immunizing the public is “the most important task” politicians now face during the pandemic.
“We are trying to follow a path of persuasion rather than of compulsion,” the president said, commenting on the approach to get jabs in arms across the world’s largest country. “We are trying to combat biased views and prejudices against vaccination.”
According to the Russian leader, this method has seen positive results, especially recently. “It is important to persuade people so that they understand that inoculation is necessary," he said.
Putin’s comments come shortly after lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party received instructions on how to combat the most popular anti-vaxxer misconceptions, including myths that the pandemic is being used to control people.
Earlier this year in the Russian capital, authorities made vaccination against coronavirus compulsory for employees in a wide range of public-facing industries, including catering, transport, and museums. Those who refuse can be sent home from work without pay.
However, the country’s national parliament is considering implementing a country-wide QR-code system which would limit access to public spaces and transportation based on vaccination status, which critics say effectively makes it impossible to live and work without being immunized.
Regional authorities have also imposed mandatory inoculation across certain sectors of the population. Last month, health officials in St. Petersburg signed a decree requiring compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for people over 60, as well as those suffering from chronic illnesses.
Despite Moscow registering the world’s first Covid jab well over a year ago, and making shots freely accessible, Russia has seen its inoculation rollout set back by high levels of skepticism and reluctance. Last Friday, Sergey Netesov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a professor at Novosibirsk State University, noted that fewer than 40% of citizens are fully vaccinated, while around 45% have had their first shot. The academic said that this is one of the lowest tallies worldwide.
The Russian government approved the launch of a cash prize scheme earlier this year to boost the motivation for citizens to come forward and get vaccinated. Under the initiative, citizens aged 18 or over who had been jabbed against Covid were in with a chance of winning around $1,360.