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COVID-19 Vaccination Skepticism: Is The Recent Death Toll In Russia Not Enough To Teach Us Lessons?

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In spite of the fact that Russia is the first country in history to make a breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccine, the country recently lost several lives to the deadly coronavirus, and why? There is low vaccination rate among Russia adults because of skepticism about vaccines.

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Millions of people have died around the world following the outbreak of COVID-19, while the pandemic has violently rocked the boat of many economies. The governments, too, have taken precautionary measures ranging from shutting down airports and businesses in the name of lockdowns to tasking pharmaceutical companies and/or universities with the responsibility of inventing vaccines within the shortest possible time, even as people themselves maintained safe distances from one another. Households’ incomes also plummeted because of the impositions of lockdowns. And the citizens of many countries affected by the pandemic, as well as countries that provided reliefs in the form of money and foodstuffs to cushion the effect of the pandemic, could not wait for an end to the lockdowns.

Over a year after, the planet seems not to be regaining its ancient balance on its constant axis, as the countries where lockdowns had been lifted could no longer stand the heat. The efforts of our scientists to curtail the spread of coronavirus, however, yielded positive result with the invention of COVID-19 vaccines. A crucial breather, and the world heaved a sigh of relief.

Does that mean things have now fallen together and the centre can now old? (To flip W.B Yeats’ idea of an apocalypse) Far from it! The death toll in many parts of the world is a testament to the undisputable fact that COVID-19 is still with us.

Russia’s third wave of coronavirus started in Moscow in June. On July 6, 2021 the fatalities surged to 700 per day and swept swiftly through other regions of the country. And just when Russian authorities had thought it was probably the worst the virus could do, the monster resurfaced again and swung to an all-time high. On October 3, 2021 Russia recorded its gravest and highest COVID-19 fatalities in a single day as the figures shot up to 890. The number of newly infected people rose to 25,769. Russia officially has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe – 218,345 deaths. It will also be recalled that Russia has reported over seven million (7,832,964) COVID-19 cases since the virus first struck. Computations based on figures available to the public on Russian mortality rate between December 2019 and July 2021 put the “excess death” figure at something around 600,000. But of course common sense dictates that that the figure is not perfect based on many other variables.

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What are the major causes of Russia’s fourth wave of the virus? The reasons are: Delta variant, misinformation, low vaccination among the populace. Delta variant also known as SARS CoV2 Variant of the virus appears more contagious than other variants. Besides, the variant could quickly land anyone who contracts it in a hospital. According to Inci Yildirim, MD, PhD, a Medicine Pediatric infectious diseases expert at Yale, “All viruses evolve over time and undergo changes as they spread and replicate.” Obviously, the Delta variant has a tendency to get stronger over time. It first surfaced in India in December 2020 before making its way into Great Britain and the United States, wreaking seismic havoc in its wake. Misinformation creates negative attitudinal vibes that inspire the populace not to get vaccinated.  Low vaccination rate is a big issue in Russia as the percentage of the vaccinated population is grossly low (29 per cent of Russian adults), despite the fact that Russia is the first country to make a breakthrough in the first COVID-19 vaccine (Sputnik V vaccine). Russia now has four vaccines from which the citizens can have a jab, but the majority of the people are yet to be vaccinated. What’s the problem? A Russian-born Bioethicist and Philosopher, Dr. Anna Gotlib, links the development to a number of reasons bordering on distrust,  home remedies, and disinformation.

She said they have a hard time trusting their own vaccine, and that they also do not trust the Western vaccine. And in the end, according to her, they just opt out of the whole thing. Dr. Anna Gotlib traced the perception of the people about vaccines further to Russia’s history regarding home remedies, dating back even before the Soviet Union, and back to the time of the tzars and beyond. While making a reference in the interview to how comfortable her grandmother was to home remedies, she said: “I remember even my own grandmother was an educated woman, but she had her own ways. If I got sick, unless I was really sick, the first trip wasn’t to the doctor. She had her own little medicine cabinet of things.”

Read Also: Vaccine for Malaria: A Game Changer for Africa

A new Russian study of the pandemic suggested that “the attitude toward immunoprophylaxis against COVID-19 in Russia can be characterised as distrust of a specific vaccine and approval of vaccination in general as an effective technology for combating epidemics.” Misinformation in the media also plays a huge role where vaccine distrust is concerned. A lot of conspiracy theories are awash in the internet and people keep believing the baseless assertions. At the mere news of a vaccine coming to Nigeria, people gave many excuses and reasons why they will not take a jab. Even as more Nigerians are having a change of mind and are being vaccinated, many still believe there is something fishy about the vaccine. Dr. Gotlib who spoke on the effect of the propaganda surrounding the virus, said “they have no idea how bad it is in Russia, to the extent where when you look at Russian media sometimes, it’s hard to make your way through all the pseudoscientific anti-vaccine [nonsense] claims.”

So, if you are still a vaccine skeptic, it is wise that you take caution from the several instances of coronavirus deaths recorded even in the developed countries. Take a specific cautionary look at the very recent deaths in Russian in order to be convinced that the battle against COVID-19 is far from being fully won. The fact that there are no more lockdowns in many countries of the world is not an indication that the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic has taken its final exit. The truth is, governments globally suffered economic losses because of the lockdowns of their countries to check the spread of coronavirus.  So, be careful because the monster is still on rampage.

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