06.02.2023

Russia’s Virus Caseload Passes 4 Million

But Russia has come under fire for its official virus statistics and the government’s stated death toll of 78,134 in particular has been undermined by recent mortality data.

Figures published by statistics agency Rosstat on Monday showed more than 162,000 virus-related deaths last year, more than double the number reported by the government’s task force so far.

Russia has frequently been criticized for downplaying the impact of the pandemic and only counting fatalities where coronavirus was found to be the primary cause of death after an autopsy.

The country had been battered recently by a second wave of infections but has held back on reimposing lockdowns like other European countries and instead relied on a nationwide vaccine rollout.

Russia said Wednesday that 2.2 million people in the country had been administered the jab since vaccinations began in January.

The mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyain said last month that half of the city’s population, or at least 6 million people, had been infected with the virus, suggesting a much higher nationwide toll.

Still, last month he also announced a significant easing of restrictions in the capital, which is the epicentre of the virus outbreak in Russia.

Bars and restaurants are operating as usual, schools have reopened and companies are no longer mandated to have staff work from home. Mask wearing in public is still mandatory.

Russia’s 2nd Potential Coronavirus Vaccine Nears Approval

Russia’s second candidate vaccine against the coronavirus is less than a month away from state approval after completing small-scale human trials, the vaccine’s developers have said this week.

The Siberia-based Vektor State Virology and Biotechnology Center concluded Phase 2 trials on 100 volunteers last week, with results due to be published Wednesday. Volunteers were said to be “feeling good” after taking the peptide-based jab called EpiVacCorona.

The Russian government plans to approve EpiVacCorona sometime around Oct. 15, Interfax reported, after which Vektor will begin large-scale trials on 5,000 volunteers.

Vektor head Rinat Maksyutov estimates that EpiVacCorona will require booster doses every three years.

“After the vaccination cycle, the next revaccination will be required no more than once every three years,” Maksyutov said in a preview of a state television documentary about Covid-19 vaccines published Thursday.

Russia’s first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, was the first in the world to receive government approval last month, and large-scale post-registration trials are currently underway on 40,000 volunteers. Its developer has said that booster shots for Sputnik V would be required every two years.

Russia’s number of new Covid-19 cases has seen a gradual rise from below 5,000 per day in mid-to-late August to more than 6,000 in the past five days.

More than 1.12 million cases have been officially confirmed in Russia, the fourth-highest number of infections in the world.

The Vektor laboratory complex, based in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, conducted secret biological weapons research in the Soviet era and stockpiles viruses ranging from Ebola to smallpox.

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