June 17th 2021
Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin has decreed the world's widest-reaching vaccination of people against their will
On the morning of June 16, employees at Moscow coffee-shop chain Skuratov were told they'd have to get vaccines against the coronavirus if they wanted to keep their jobs.
"We got a message from our management that we'll need to schedule our appointment," said Masha Zubrilina, a twenty-three-year-old barista. "The majority of my coworkers will do it."
Later that day, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the world's widest-reaching compulsory Covid-19 vaccination policy, decreeing that state and service sector workers would be required to have jabs to counteract what he called a "dramatic" public health situation.
Moscow's push for mandatory vaccination underlined a failing vaccination program, which has seen only around 13% of residents receiving jabs despite their free availability in the Russian capital since December.
"It's not ideal and I wish the choice was ours," said Zubrilina, who said she would make a vaccination appointment for the following week.
"But the situation is bad. Many of my friends have got sick."
Sobyanin's call for mandatory vaccinations - requiring businesses to ensure 60% of their employees are dosed - reflects a worsening pandemic situation in the Russian capital and will affect two million people.
Even as Europe and North America have seen cases and mortality in steady decline amid wide-ranging inoculation, in Russia daily case increases have returned to last year's peak, with Moscow authorities warning that the capital is running out of hospital beds.
Despite over 60% of Russians opposing obligatory vaccinations, according to a poll released Thursday, authorities in other regions have announced similar moves, and President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has backed the policy.
With such high levels of vaccine hesitancy, the move toward mandatory inoculation also represents a political risk for the Kremlin.
With high-stakes elections to Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament coming in September - and the ruling United Russia party looking weak in the polls - compulsory jabs threaten to alienate voters sceptical of vaccination and unaccustomed to the state meddling in their personal lives.
"Compulsory vaccination is amoral, illegal," said Yevgeny Stupin, a Communist lawmaker in the Moscow City Council, who has campaigned against pandemic restrictions, alongside much of his party.
"Vaccination is a personal choice. These vaccines haven't been fully tested, we don't know what their side effects are."
On the ground in Moscow, however, service employees are already thinking up ways to sidestep the new requirements.
"I am going to ask my bosses to make me one of the 40% that doesn't need to get vaccinated," said 29-year-old electronics shop worker Dmitry. "I don't trust this vaccine."
"These compulsory measures are absurd, unconstitutional. But what can I do? I'd like to keep my job."
Source: The Moscow Times