Russia Announces Plans to Vaccinate Citizens Against COVID Every Year

Russian health officials told a government meeting on Tuesday that new plans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia include vaccinating citizens against the virus every year as part of a herd immunity tactic.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the ministry issued guidelines to deal with the "unfavorable epidemiological situation in Russia" by allowing those who contracted COVID-19 to receive a vaccination six months after they recovered, and booster shots for people who had already received the vaccination six months after their first dose.

Murashko said the plans to handle the recent surge of infections and deaths from the virus in Russia were through "achieving herd immunity and stabilization," after which "vaccination (against the coronavirus) will be carried out once a year."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Sputnik V Vaccine
SIMFEROPOL, CRIMEA, RUSSIA JUNE 29, 2021: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine (under the brand name of Sputnik V) against the novel coronavirus before vaccinating BnB bar chain employees, at the BnB Boys Bar. Russian health officials told a government meeting on Tuesday that new plans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia include vaccinating citizens against the virus every year as part of a herd immunity tactic. Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

Murashko didn't offer any data supporting the need for booster shots six months after the first vaccination. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, however, referenced "international and Russian studies" showing that immunity in those who have recovered from the virus persists for six months on average and winds down gradually after 9-12 months.

The new guidelines come as infections in Russia soar and vaccination rates lag behind many other nations.

Russia's state coronavirus task force has been reporting over 20,000 new COVID-19 infections daily since last Thursday, more than double the average in early June. On Tuesday, 20,616 new contagions were registered and 652 deaths — the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.

Russia was among the first in the world to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine last year, but has since inoculated only a fraction of its 146 million people. Murashko said Tuesday that more than 23 million — just over 15 percent — have received at least one vaccine shot.

Hampered by widespread vaccine hesitancy and limited production capacity, Russia's vaccination rates have picked up in recent weeks, after authorities in many regions made shots mandatory for employees in certain sectors, such as government offices, retail, health care, education, restaurants and other service industries.

But a spike in demand was quickly followed by reports of shortages in a number of Russian regions, and some experts have questioned whether Russia will have enough vaccines to go around.

Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said Tuesday that, to date, 36.7 million sets of four domestically-developed coronavirus vaccines have been released into circulation in Russia, and 30 more million are expected to be produced in July.

Bar employee vaccination
SIMFEROPOL, CRIMEA, RUSSIA JUNE 29, 2021: A BnB bar chain employee has his blood pressure measured before receiving an injection of the Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine (under the brand name of Sputnik V) against the novel coronavirus, at the BnB Boys Bar. Russian health officials told a government meeting on Tuesday that new plans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia include vaccinating citizens against the virus every year as part of a herd immunity tactic. Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images