President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia is aiming for herd immunity against the coronavirus by the autumn and hailed his country’s development of three vaccines.
“Vaccination is now of paramount importance … to allow herd immunity to develop in the fall,” Putin said during his annual state of the nation address.
“Our scientists have made a real breakthrough. Now Russia has three reliable vaccines against the coronavirus,” he added.
The 68-year-old received his second dose of a coronavirus vaccine last week without specifying which of Russia’s three jabs – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona or CoviVac – he had been administered.
On Wednesday, he reiterated an appeal he has made multiple times in recent weeks for all Russians to get a vaccine.
“I appeal to all citizens of Russia: get vaccinated. This is the only way we will get rid of this deadly disease,” he said.
Despite beginning its vaccination campaign in early December ahead of most countries, Russia has struggled to inoculate its citizens.
Many Russians are skeptical of the vaccine, with a recent opinion poll showing fewer than a third are willing to get inoculated.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said last week that “significantly” more than eight million of Russia’s 144 million people have been vaccinated.
The country has been among the hardest hit by Covid-19, with health officials reporting more than 4.7 million cases and 106,000 deaths as of Wednesday.
But Putin reiterated a claim he has made throughout the pandemic – that Russia has handled its outbreak better than most countries.
“Healthcare in many leading countries was not able to as effectively ward off the epidemic as we have.”