Staunton, March 18 – Ever more cities, regions, and republics are running out of vaccine and have suspended their inoculation programs. Part of the problem appears to lie with logistical failures but much of it reflects shortages of production and Moscow’s push to deliver as much vaccine as possible to foreign countries.
Shortages in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast have received the most media attention, but among other places which have run out or are close to running out of vaccine include, Murmansk, Pskov, Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Sverdlovsk and Rostov Oblasts and the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District, according to regional media (bfm.ru/news/467617).
If Moscow does not get more of the serum to these and other places in the near future, the Russian vaccination effort will fail to meet the targets for establishing herd immunity that the Kremlin has routinely promised. In that event, the pandemic will continue into at least the fall with new waves increasingly likely.
A major limiting factor is Moscow’s desire to sell as much of the vaccine abroad as possible, with every dose sold there bringing it a profit while each delivered in Russia itself costs the regime something. At present, Russia is talking with approximately 50 countries about providing the Sputnik-5 vaccine, something profitable both financially and politically (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/03/18/ot-kompleksa-avangard-k-sputniku-v).
The Russian export push in this area has been so great that it has been accompanied by the inevitable fraud with various individuals offering fake vaccine to foreigners. Six thousand doses of this kind were uncovered in Mexico. The authorities there confiscated them, with Moscow’s thanks (gob.mx/sat/prensa/aduanas-y-ejercito-mexicano-decomisan-vacunas-sputnik-v-en-aeronave-privada-en-la-aduana-de-campeche-043-2021 and sputnikvaccine.com/rus/newsroom/pressreleases/rfpi-blagodarit-meksiku-za-zaderzhanie-nelegalnoy-partii-poddelnoy-vaktsiny-sputnik-v/).
As the pandemic ebbed and flowed across Russia, Moscow officials reported registering 9803 new cases of infection and 460 new deaths over the last 24 hours (t.me/COVID2019_official/2620 and regnum.ru/news/society/3217850.html). These figures have been going up and down in recent days, the result of delays in registration rather than an indication of any fundamental shift, consumer affairs advocate Anna Popova says (regnum.ru/news/3218648.html).
On the economic front, FinExpertiza reported that in 2020, Russians’ nominal as well as real spending declined for the first time since the end of the 1990s (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/84335krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/84352).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· The Russian government announced that the country will be releasing a coronavirus vaccine for animals in the near future (regnum.ru/news/3219182.html).
· Ten percent of Russia’s beauty salons have closed since the beginning of the pandemic, as people cut and style their hair at home rather than go out to have it done by others (regnum.ru/news/3218365.html).
· The Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Russia says that Muslims can use the Sputnik-5 vaccine without fear of violating Islamic dietary norms (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/361891/).