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Why I Got the Russian Vaccine

  • January 09, 2021

Russian promoters have compared the vaccine to the Kalashnikov rifle, simple and effective in its operation. I was even lucky in avoiding some of the common side effects of Sputnik V, such as a raging headache or a fever.

With many of my fears alleviated, another reason I chose to get inoculated with a product of Russian genetic engineering was more basic: It was available. Russian clinics have not been dogged by the lines or logistical snafus reported at vaccination sites in the United States and other countries.

In Moscow, the best days of winter come in early January as the country slumbers through a weeklong holiday, the traffic thins and the city’s bustling chaos gives way to a quiet, snowy beauty. Vaccination sites were also lightly attended.

Russia’s vaccination campaign began with medical workers and teachers and then expanded. It is now open to people older than 60 or with underlying conditions that render them vulnerable to more severe disease, and to people working in a widening list of professions deemed to be at high risk: bank tellers, city government workers, professional athletes, bus drivers, police officers and, conveniently for me, journalists. It’s unclear whether Russia’s production capacity is sufficient to meet demand long term.

For now, with so many Russians deeply skeptical of their medical system and the vaccine, there is no great clamor for the shot. The first site I visited, while reporting back in December, closed early because so few people had turned up.

In the capital, the vaccine has, paradoxically, appealed to educated people, a group that is traditionally a hotbed of political opposition to Mr. Putin, the chief promoter of the vaccine. When it came to a decision about health, many rolled up their sleeves.

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