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26 Oct, 2021 14:06

Vaccine skepticism & rise of new Covid-19 variant have dashed Russia’s hopes of coronavirus herd immunity – top Moscow scientist

Vaccine skepticism & rise of new Covid-19 variant have dashed Russia’s hopes of coronavirus herd immunity – top Moscow scientist

Russia has struggled to hit herd immunity and shield its citizens from Covid-19, despite hopes the pandemic would blow through, because of variants and hesitance to sign up for jabs, one of the country’s top biologists has said.

According to Ancha Baranova, Chief Researcher at the Medico-Genetical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, the recent rise in new infections and record number of deaths from the virus was down to mutations and vaccine hesitancy.

In an interview with RIA Novosti on Monday, she said that “we had all hoped for” herd immunity. “We thought that vaccination would lead to mass immunity. But the rate of vaccination in Russia is not high.”

Also on rt.com Russia’s official Covid-19 death toll tops 900 for fifth-consecutive day as country sees record numbers of deaths & infections

“In addition, the ‘Delta’ strain began to spread,” she added. “It turns out that those who have already been ill and vaccinated should be revaccinated, and the rate of revaccination is even worse than that of vaccination. The process stretched over time, herd immunity did not have time to take shape,” Baranova said.

The top boffin also argued that the newer, more infectious variant of coronavirus that is sweeping across countries all over the globe could be the virus’ last, which would boost the effectiveness and longevity of existing antibodies.

On Tuesday, Russian officials revealed that the death toll from coronavirus had reached a new all-time high since the start of the pandemic back in March 2020. At least 1,106 new Covid-related deaths were recorded within a 24-hour period, bringing the total number up to 232,775.

Russian regions have introduced a range of new measures in recent weeks in an effort to boost the vaccine rollout and curb the surge in coronavirus cases. In early October, Roman Starovoit, the governor of Kursk region, threatened to halt road repairs in districts with low levels of vaccine uptake. In some parts of the area, fewer than 55% of people have been immunized, and Starovoit has said he will take steps to ensure more people get the shot.

In August, vaccinated Russians were offered free tickets in a national lottery, with those who have been jabbed being offered the chance of winning 100,000 rubles (about $1,378). In June, Moscow also said that free cars would be given away in prize draws to immunized residents.

Despite the Kremlin insisting that there have been discussions around a new national lockdown in the country, in a list of instructions signed by President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, senior officials were ordered to introduce a range of new public health measures.

Among them was “the introduction of a ban on the holding of entertainment and events, and the provision of hospitality services in the evening and at night.” According to the directive, bars, cafes and restaurants will have to close between 11pm and 6am each day. The news of the curfew comes only days after the announcement of ‘non-working days’ in the country.

Last week, Putin announced that the country would extend a two-day planned national holiday and keep many employees at home, with pay, for a full week. Under plans put forward by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, offices will be closed and all unvaccinated employees older than 60 should be transferred to a remote-working arrangement for the next month.

Also on rt.com Moscow’s main Covid-19 hospital rapidly filling up with unvaccinated patients as autumn weather contributes to boost in infections

On Monday, health officials reported that a new mutation of coronavirus, a strain of the delta variant known as AY.4.2, was detected in isolated cases in the Moscow region. However, on Tuesday, a top official at health regulator Rospotrebnadzor’s Central Research Institute of Epidemiology said that there is no data as of yet to prove that AY.4.2 causes more severe Covid-19 symptoms in patients, nor that it is more resistant to antibodies.

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