Putin urges Russians to get vaccinated against Covid-19

Vaccine scepticism runs high in Russia.
Vaccine scepticism runs high in Russia.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday (March 28) called on his fellow citizens to get inoculated against the coronavirus, as Russia's vaccination roll-out remained sluggish and vaccine scepticism in the population remained high.

Speaking on Kremlin-controlled television, the Russian leader - who received a jab a few days ago - said that getting vaccinated was "needed, even necessary".

"If a person wants to feel confident, does not want to get sick and have serious consequences after an illness, then it is better to get this vaccine, of course," news agencies quoted Mr Putin as saying on Rossiya-1.

The 68-year-old received his first dose on Tuesday, but did not reveal which of Russia's three home-grown jabs - Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona or CoviVac - he had been given.

Unlike many world leaders, Mr Putin also chose to be vaccinated in private.

Russia began its vaccination campaign in early December, but only about four million of the country's 144 million people have so far received two doses of a vaccine, while another two million have had a first dose.

Vaccine scepticism runs high in Russia, with a recent opinion poll showing fewer than a third of people are willing to have a jab, and close to two-thirds saying they believe the coronavirus is a man-made biological weapon.

The country has been among the hardest hit by Covid-19, with more than 4.5 million cases.

Official data have also shown that Russia has seen more than 200,000 virus-related deaths, double the daily count published by an official coronavirus tally.

Russia has lifted nearly all epidemiological measures against the coronavirus, with health authorities saying that the worst of the pandemic passed over the winter.

Mr Putin on Sunday said that the country would be able to end the rest of its restrictions when about 70 per cent of Russian adults had been vaccinated against the virus.

He predicted that this would happen by the end of the summer.