To encourage other reluctant Russians to get their shot, Russian President Vladimir Putin got himself vaccinated against Covid-19, but without cameras.
The president is often pictured on horseback, ice skating and flying with Siberian cranes chose to get vaccinated behind closed doors. The Kremlin has not specified which vaccine Mr Putin received.
The aim was to underline “all three Russian vaccines are absolutely reliable, very good and effective,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
As for believing the president actually had the jab, he said people would just have to “take our word for it”.
The president’s own daughter took part in the Sputnik V safety trials, but he’s seemed oddly cautious given how highly he recommends the jab for others. Mr Putin, who is 68 years old, initially claimed he was waiting until it had been deemed safe for the over-65s. Later he said he’d wait for autumn when his doctors could fit the Covid shot in his “vaccine schedule”.
Mr Putin also told a gathering of Russian news editors that he wouldn’t be a “performing monkey” and get vaccinated before the TV cameras, surprising many with his sudden camera-shyness.
Mr Putin has spent much of the pandemic working from his official residence outside Moscow. Those meeting him in person have had to quarantine first.
The Kremlin says he is getting vaccinated now in order to have the “necessary level of immunity” to get back to travelling and working, ahead of parliament elections in autumn.
Mr Putin revealed on Monday that 6.3 million Russians had so far received one dose of a Covid vaccine since he became the world’s first leader to announce a “large-scale” vaccination back in December. That’s only around 5% of the adult population.
His target is to protect 60% of adults by July to stop the virus spreading. But that would require boosting the current vaccination-rate from just a few thousand to more than 700,000 every day – and this is only for just a single dose of the vaccine.
Despite Russia touting its most widely available jab, Sputnik V, as the world’s first and best, interest at home is low and falling.
A Levada-Center poll suggests the number of Russian opposed to getting it rose to 62% in February, with most citing concerns over possible side effects despite the fact Sputnik proved safe and almost 92% effective in trials.
Many also see no urgent need for protection. There’s been no lockdown here since spring 2020, the number of new infections is currently falling and the death toll from Covid is barely mentioned.
The daily count has reached 95,818, though the number of excess deaths recorded so far is some four times higher.