Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Russia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive slowly picking up speed

Russia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive slowly picking up speed

IKHALA- Maria Piparinen and other elderly residents of Ikhala were relieved when they heard that doctors were finally bringing a few doses of the coronavirus vaccine to their remote, snowy village in the Russian region of Karelia, near the border with Finland.
Otherwise, the 75-year-old said she would have had to hire a car to take her 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the town of Lakhdenpokhya, because the bus no longer runs there.
And besides, “I called the clinic in Lakhdenpokhya, but … they told me (all the slots in) February were booked already,” Piparinen told The Associated Press.
The village of wooden houses — carved out of a dense forest of fir trees about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Finnish border and 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of St. Petersburg — is one of several in the Karelia region where Russia’s vaccination campaign has arrived in recent weeks.
More than 18,000 people have gotten their first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine in the region of 600,000 that was hit hard by COVID-19.
At one point in December, Karelia recorded a daily average of 75.7 cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in Russia as a whole, which had been averaging 18.8 recorded cases per 100,000.
“When you watch TV and see how people are suffering … you don’t want that. You want to live a little longer,” said 74-year-old Galina Shilova, one of Ikhala’s nearly 700 residents. Some of those getting the shots last week at the makeshift clinic had to make their way cautiously along snowy footpaths.
The goal is to vaccinate 290,000 people, or 60% of the region’s adults, by summer, said Karelia Deputy Health Minister Galina Matveyeva.
Russia took pride in being the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, although it faced criticism for doing it before completing the advanced testing necessary to ensure Sputnik V’s safety and effectiveness. It began vaccinations in December, another global first, but now lags behind a dozen nations that have been using vaccines developed in the West and China.
Russian authorities don’t regularly release data on vaccination rates, but the number who have gotten at least the first shot appears to be somewhere between 2 million and 3.2 million. (AP)