St. Petersburg Orders COVID Vaccines for Those Older Than 60 As Russian Hospitals Fill Up

As Russian hospitals reach full capacity, St. Petersburg mandated vaccinations for those older than 60 and those who are suffering from chronic illnesses.

Residents who meet either of the requirements must get their first shot before Dec. 15 and complete the vaccination before Jan. 15. There are currently four vaccines domestically developed in Russia. Sputnik V and Sputnik Light, a one-dose vaccine, are the most employed.

Despite criticisms for having tested Sputnik V on only a few dozen people before approval in late August, the vaccine has been shown to be working. A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet reported that Sputnik V is 91 percent effective and seems to prevent those vaccinated from becoming severely ill from COVID-19.

Russian authorities said over 80 percent of hospital beds reserved for COVID-19 patients are filled. In a government meeting Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova stated as of Tuesday morning, 82.8 percent of the 301,500 beds designated for COVID-19 patients were filled.

There were 1,239 coronavirus deaths Wednesday, a record for Russia. More than 38,000 new infections were reported. Since late October, about 40,000 cases and over 1,100 deaths have been reported every day.

Although Russia approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine before most countries, less than 40 percent of Russia's population, around 146 million people, have been fully vaccinated, according to The Associated Press.

Last month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Russians to not work between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7 He also authorized regional governments to extend the number of non-working days if necessary. Only five regions have done so, though, the AP reported.

Certain regions only allow people who are fully vaccinated, tested negative in the last 72 hours, or have recovered from COVID-19 to have access to restaurants, theaters, and other public places.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

St. Petersburg, Russia, COVID-19 vaccine
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. As hospitals are getting close to reaching capacity for COVID-19 patients in Russia, St. Petersburg mandated the vaccine for those older than 60. Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

"So far we can't confidently say that the situation has stabilized and the spread of infection has declined," Golikova, who runs the country's state coronavirus task force, told a government meeting Wednesday.

Russia's autumn surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government's reluctance to toughen restrictions.

It is yet to be seen whether the non-working period is paying off, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this week.

Two other Russian vaccines, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac, have also received regulatory approval before completing late-stage trials experts say are necessary to ensure their safety and effectiveness in line with established scientific protocol. Developers of both are yet to release the results of these trials.

In total, Russia's state coronavirus task force has reported 8.9 million confirmed infections and 250,454 deaths — by far the highest death toll in Europe, which some experts believe to be a undercount.

Reports by Russia's own statistical service Rosstat, which tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher mortality numbers: 462,000 people with COVID-19 died between April 2020 and September this year.

Russian officials have said the task force only includes deaths for which COVID-19 was the main cause and uses data from medical facilities. Rosstat uses wider criteria for counting virus-related deaths and takes its numbers from civil registry offices where registering a death is finalized.

COVID-19 vaccine, Elderly, Russia
An ambulance drives on a street at sunset in Moscow on Nov. 10, 2021. Russia reported a record 1,239 Covid deaths in a single day on Nov. 10. St. Petersburg mandated that those over 60 or with chronic illness be fully vaccinated by Jan. 15. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images