For more than a year, Russian-aligned troll factories that oversee thousands of social media accounts have been accused of spreading anti-vaccine messages by Western countries and propaganda experts in an aggressive campaign to spread conspiracy theories and cast doubt on Western coronavirus vaccines. Has been charged.
But this year-long attack seems to have the opposite effect.
Russian officials now worry that the anti-vaccine skepticism encouraged by troll factories is over and partly responsible for the high level of vaccine hesitation among Russians. Despite the widespread availability of the country’s domestic Sputnik vaccine, only 35% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated. Despite rising cases, offtake remains sluggish.
Social network analysis company Graphica reported last month how Russia-aligned troll factories have recently been focusing on mandatory vaccination campaigns in the West to undermine an effort to lure in more people. The US State Department began warning last year that Russian campaigners were using social media platforms to spread conspiracy theories and foster suspicion about vaccinations.
But anti-vaccination videos and postings on the Internet are attracting high traffic even in Russia, with tens of thousands of views. Distrust of vaccines is rampant in Russia. A survey conducted earlier this month by the Levada Center, a leading surveyor, found that 45% of Russians are unwilling to be vaccinated. And the pollster found that 50% of people are not afraid of contracting the virus, although it found that the fear of contracting the virus has increased from 43% in August to 48% now.
Russian health officials have been reporting nearly 40,000 new coronavirus cases a day recently, despite a partial week-long shutdown earlier this month that required Russians to take paid leave to stem the spread of the virus. Was. Russia’s low vaccination rate is particularly disappointing given that the country has become the first country in the world to have a COVID-19 vaccine in August last year with Russian health officials approving the satellite named Sputnik V half a century ago. -19 vaccine was registered.
While neighboring countries have sometimes scrambled to meet vaccine demand, especially earlier this year, Russia has faced quite the opposite dilemma: plenty of vaccine supplies but from a vaccine-skeptical population. Resistance.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady rise in the number of reported COVID-19 cases, with records breaking day by day. By ordering most state organizations and private businesses to cease work for a week, except for those involved in maintaining critical infrastructure, the Kremlin hoped the trend could be reversed. But since the involuntary public holiday ended, the infection rate has come down very little.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted to reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that officials expected the pandemic to end quickly. “At first we thought that the pandemic would be over in six months – in a year. Now we see that we were wrong in our calculations. We will soon have two years of this pandemic, and there is no end to it as of now,” he said.
The Kremlin is planning to launch a new domestic information campaign that will emphasize that life can only return to normal, and that more Russians are vaccinated when pandemic restrictions are lifted. Kommersant Newspaper. Officials say the information campaign will also seek to counter anti-vaccine messaging, possibly when it targets Russians.
The newspaper, citing two Kremlin sources, said the new public service information campaign would be overseen by an aide of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s first deputy chief of staff, Sergei Kiriyenko. Kiriyenko is frequently called upon by Putin to manage major domestic political initiatives and was tasked with overseeing Kremlin operations for the 2018 presidential election.
Last month, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, Putin’s aide, publicly said he feared the Kremlin was losing the information battle. He criticized the government’s patchy information effort so far on Russian television, saying, “Unfortunately, we mismanaged and completely lost an entire information campaign about the coronavirus in Russia.” Tolstoy said: “People have no confidence to vaccinate and go, it’s a fact.”
Some commentators have suggested that low vaccine uptake may be linked to a growing public distrust of Putin, but some Russian sociologists see a more complex dynamic at play, and say they range from conspiracy theories to Russia’s hospitals and medicine. A variety of factors are involved, up to widespread mistrust. Amenities.
In a recent panel discussion organized by OpenDemocracy, a UK-based political website, Anna Temkina, professor of sociology at the European University in St Petersburg, said the relationship between vaccination approaches and politics is unclear, noting anti-Putin protesters. Among the first people to get vaccinated while keeping.
“In Russia, many people are vaccinated not because of rumors, regardless of politics, but because they have a traumatic experience communicating with medical institutions,” Temkina said. “Many of us have such a negative experience of dealing with [Russian] The medicine we know is better not to go there at all. Apart from this, there is also an understanding that it is generally better not to contact any medical facility in a pandemic, as it is a source of infection,” she said.
Other sociologists, including Temkina’s colleague, Ekaterina Borozdina, say that vaccine resistance should be viewed in a historical context. She says there has been a persistence bias against vaccines for decades. “Russians are in no hurry to get vaccinated, even when it comes to fighting a pandemic and getting back to normal everyday life,” she said, speaking at the same panel discussion.
Borozdina says there is “mistrust of government institutions” and bureaucracy in general. “Almost 45 percent of Russians failed to follow the recommended vaccination schedule for their children even before the pandemic emerged.”
Kremlin spokesman Peskov acknowledged mid-week that the government had not done enough to explain the importance of vaccination. “People trust and listen to your advice and recommendations,” Putin urged lawmakers to boost vaccination last week.