Friday, June 11, 2021

Moscow Faces Hard Choice as Russian Resistance to Vaccinations Continues Despite Worsening of Pandemic, Markov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – Two trends have come together to create “a great internal drama” for the Russian authorities, Sergey Markov says. On the one hand, Russians continue to resist getting vaccinated; and on the other, the pandemic has returned to Russia and especially to Moscow and St. Petersburg with new force.

            The government had expected, the Russian analyst says, that people would get the shots as the authorities made it ever easier for them to do so and in response to the risks they face if they don’t get them. But things have turned out very differently, and now the regime has to make a tough choice (

            “The rates of vaccination have been falling” in Russia, Markov points out. “they are very low, much lower than they should be and much lower than the vaccination infrastructure that has been put in place allows as well as lower than in Europe and much lower than in the United States and Great Britain.”

            Russians “don’t want to get vaccinated,” and neither accessibility, nor propaganda nor the onset of what appears to be a new wave of the pandemic in which for the first time in months, infections have risen above 10,000 a day and continue to increase, Markov says. “What is to be done?”
            There are three possibilities, he suggests. First, the regime can make no changes in its vaccination policy, now ostensibly entirely voluntary. But if it does that, the number of cases is likely to explode, forcing new lockdowns just before elections and the collapse of many businesses. The regime wants to avoid that “at any price. But how?”

            Second, the government can make inoculations mandatory for many categories in the population. That is what at least some at the top of the regime want. But others there “are afraid that a shift to force methods could produce a negative response,” with even fewer people getting the vaccine and even more angry at the government.

            And third, there is “the scenario of the good magician.” According to Markov, “our president is a humanist and doesn’t like to force millions. Therefore, for the time being, he will reject forced vaccinations … and will demand that the government intensify its propaganda efforts” and take steps to make access to vaccines even easier.

            Whether that third option will work, however, is unclear. The steps the government has taken so far haven’t, but the first two options carry with them enormous political risks especially now. And so the third option, as “magical” as it may be, is the regime’s likely choice, even though in the worst case more many suffer and the issue will have to be revisited soon.

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