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From scarcity to coercion: specifics of vaccination against COVID-19 in occupied territories

12/28/2021 01:15:00 pm
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"At first, there was a shortage of vaccines against coronavirus, then resistance to the vaccination process, after that – coercion. Currently there are vaccines, the rules are tightened as much as possible, but there are fewer and fewer those who wish every day. The information campaign has failed, Russian vaccines are not listed anywhere in the world", - resident of the occupied Crimea Kateryna told OstroV.

People in the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea are being vaccinated only with Russian vaccines, which are not recognized by the World Health Organization.

The vaccines efficacy is constantly being questioned by the international community. For example, on December 15, an international group of authors published the very first data on the ability of serum antibodies vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine to neutralize the Omicron variant of coronavirus. This ability was rated as zero – worse than any vaccine tested.

At the same time, Ukraine has created all the conditions, so that residents of the occupied territories could come to the controlled territory, get vaccinated with a globally recognized vaccine and receive an international vaccination certificate. For example, Crimeans can get vaccinated directly at the checkpoint, and later generate a certificate in their mobile phone without visiting a family doctor.

OstroV found out how vaccination against coronavirus takes place in the occupied territories of Ukraine, and how residents of CADLO and Crimea get vaccinated in the controlled territory.

 

Vaccination in CADLO

Russian vaccines Sputnik V and Sputnik Light are used in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. They are shipped in batches approximately every six months. For example, the last consignment came through humanitarian aid from Russia at the end of November (290 000 doses to the "DNR" and 150 000 doses to the "LNR"). The previous batch was in July 2021.

Information campaign in the local media about the delivery of the last batch lasted for several months. During this period, vaccination was virtually frozen in the "republics". People were denied even a revaccination, since there were simply no vaccines. Therefore, when the next party came, the local media presented it as a victory on a universal scale.

However, what the media and the occupation authorities stubbornly keep silent about is the number of vaccinated people. Statistics appear even less frequently than the vaccine deliveries from Russia.

The last mention of the number of vaccinated in the "LNR" dates back to April 27, 2021. It says that about 30 thousand residents of the "LNR" have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and about 16 thousand more people received the first component of the vaccine.

The statistics from the "DNR" was classified for a long time, and only on October 7, 2021, information about 200 thousand vaccinated appeared on the website of the so-called "Ministry of Health of the Donetsk People's Republic".

"During the vaccination campaign, which started on February 1, 2021, about 200 000 people over 18 years old were vaccinated in the Donetsk People's Republic", - the message says.

It is easy to calculate that this is about 9% of the "republic's" population. At the same time, their plans are more ambitious – occupation authorities still want to vaccinate about a million people by the end of 2021, that is, almost 50% of the population.

If a month ago, it was necessary to register in the queue for vaccination in advance, then after the delivery of the last batch, the situation has changed.

"The Ministry of Health has simplified the vaccination procedure – now there is no need to undergo preliminary registration, and everyone will be able to contact the vaccination point that is convenient for him/her in terms of location, regardless of place of residence and assignment to a health care institution on a territorial basis", - the message of the so-called Ministry of Health of the "DNR" says.

Similar messages have appeared in the "LNR" recently. According to the so-called "Minister of Health" of the LNR Natalia Pashchenko, everyone will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, for this you need to contact the clinic at your place of residence and sign up for vaccination at the record department. She recalled that vaccination takes place both by appointment and on the day a person goes to vaccination points.

Immediately after the administration, both "republics" promise to issue a document with a QR code, "valid on the territory of the Russian Federation and other countries". However, there was a slight problem with this point.

According to head of the "DNR" formation Denis Pushilin, vaccination QR codes issued in Donetsk are not recognized in Russia.

"There are many problems even of a technical nature. I was revaccinated, I have a QR code, but in Donetsk. I am a citizen of Russia as well, and I am registered on the State Services website. But the QR code is not suitable because of the technical input", - he said on the air of the Soloviev live program.

Residents of Luhansk faced a similar problem. Leader of the "LNR" Leonid Pasechnik stated there that the "republic" had previously agreed with Russia on the recognition of QR codes.

"The system for issuing QR codes to residents of the republic who have undergone vaccination has already begun to work. They receive them in clinics and at the place of vaccination. We have a preliminary agreement that these QR codes will be accepted in the Russian Federation", - Pasechnik said in an interview with TASS in early December.

He did not specify what this preliminary agreement is and when it will work.

 

Vaccination in the Crimea

Unlike CADLO, Russia has fully provided the Crimean peninsula with vaccines against COVID-19. As of December 17, 942 584 people were fully vaccinated against coronavirus in the Crimea. This is just over 50% of the adult population living on the occupied peninsula. According to the plan of the "local authorities", it is necessary that 1 212 687 people receive both components of the vaccine for the formation of herd immunity.

Although there was a significant increase in the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in the Crimea over the past few months, the pace has now fallen sharply.

"People somehow calmed down early… In general, the rate of vaccination dropped by about a third over a week", - the so-called "chief freelance epidemiologist of the Sevastopol Health Department" Sergey Gryga stated.

According to him, the improvement of epidemiological situation in the region did not have the best effect on the rate of vaccination of the population.

"Everyone ran to get vaccinated a couple of months ago, when severe restrictions were introduced. Firstly, the list of professions for compulsory vaccination was greatly expanded. People either had to be vaccinated or they were fired from their jobs. I think the choice is obvious. Secondly, the system of QR codes was introduced, without which people were not allowed anywhere. That is when many ran en masse to get vaccinated, there were terrible queues at the checkpoints. Now the pace has fallen sharply, because those who needed to be vaccinated received it", - medical worker from Sevastopol Kateryna told OstroV.

According to her, the main problem is vaccination of pensioners.

"Pensioners are the category that mostly do not work and do not go to theaters and restaurants, so they have no motivation to get vaccinated", - the health worker notes.

Indeed, since the end of October 2021, mandatory vaccination has been introduced in the Crimea for workers in the education, health care, social protection and trade sectors; couriers and catering workers, hotels, boarding houses, hostels and other accommodation facilities; employees of beauty salons, massage parlors, baths, saunas, gyms, fitness centers and swimming pools; employees of the sphere of housing and communal services and energy sector; workers of cultural events, exhibitions, theaters and cinemas, as well as for civil servants.

The local occupation authorities promise that this list will be supplemented further.

In addition, due to the deterioration of the pandemic situation at the end of October, occupation authorities were forced to introduce new restrictions. So, the QR-code system began to operate in the Crimea on October 25.

You can get the QR code through the portal of public services after being vaccinated against coronavirus or after recovering from the disease. Essentially, this is now a legal pass to/for:

- restaurants, cafes, canteens, bars, snack bars and food courts;

- karaoke clubs, hookah bars, as well as discos, nightclubs, concert and dance halls, including those located on the territory of catering establishments, and other similar organizations;

- beauty salons, hairdressing salons, spa salons, massage parlors, solariums, baths, saunas, swimming pools, fitness centers and other sports facilities;

- organization of leisure of citizens, including cinemas, theaters, libraries, museums and circuses;

- organizations and institutions providing state and municipal services;

- walking and bus tours.

The restrictions introduced above made it possible to increase the rate of vaccination in October-November, but now they have more than halved. Therefore, the local "authorities" decided to tighten quarantine in the Crimea again. In particular, mass New Year's events were banned on the occupied peninsula.

"To prohibit holding of animation, concert and other entertainment events, contests in places of mass presence of people, near New Year's trees, etc. during New Year and Christmas events", - text of the decree of Russian "head" of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov says.

New Year's children's matinees were allowed to be held in kindergartens, schools and sports clubs only without parents. The events themselves should be held in each group or class separately – a common holiday for all is prohibited.

In addition, the "Crimean government" supported the bill on QR codes submitted to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, which prohibits unvaccinated Russians from using public transport.

"If they prohibit the use of public transport, then everyone will be vaccinated for sure. Everyone is waiting and afraid of this at the same time. The media are now very actively raising and escalating this topic", - local resident of the Crimea Kateryna said in a comment to OstroV.

 

Vaccination in Ukraine: the pace is falling

In fairness, it should be noted that the rate of vaccination against coronavirus is falling in the controlled territory of Ukraine as well.

"More than one million vaccinations (against COVID-19, - ed.) continue to be done weekly, but, unfortunately, the rate of vaccination is starting to decline, so we urge citizens who have already been vaccinated to join the communication for vaccination and tell their families and loved ones about the importance and safety of vaccination", - Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal informed.

Currently, more than 40% of the adult population have completed the full course of vaccination in Ukraine (more than 50% received at least one dose of vaccine).

784 255 people were vaccinated last week (December 13-19), 1 029 953 – the week before last (December 6-12) and 1 270 911 – a week earlier (November 29 - December 5).

As you can see, the rate of vaccination in Ukraine has almost halved over three weeks. Even the program to pay a thousand hryvnias for a full course of vaccination did not help.

According to OstroV, the Cabinet of Ministers intends to expand the eSupport program in the near future, as it did not bring the expected result.

"The goal of the program was at least to keep the rate of vaccination at the same level for some time, but now we see a decline, and it will continue predictably. Therefore, now, together with the Office of the President, we will expand and supplement it in order to somehow stimulate people. The purchase of medicines will be available from January, later we want to add other goods and services. We will also more rapidly introduce the accrual of one thousand hryvnias for those who do not have the Diia application. First of all, we are talking about pensioners", - a source in the Cabinet of Ministers told OstroV.

 

Vaccination of residents of CADLO and Crimea in Ukraine

While in the Crimea and CADLO, they continue to vaccinate with Russian vaccines that are not recognized by the world community, in the controlled territory of Ukraine, you can get vaccinated with vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization (AstraZeneca, CoronaVac, Pfizer and Moderna), and receive an International certificate about vaccination.

It is the receipt of the International Certificate that is one of the most attractive arguments for vaccination in the controlled territory of Ukraine, since this document allows you to freely enter other countries for work, study or recreation. Russia cannot issue such a certificate, since their vaccines are not recognized by the WHO.

If earlier such a certificate could only be obtained from a family doctor with whom the declaration was concluded, today the procedure is simplified as much as possible – such document can be generated online through the portal or the Diia application.

In order to simplify the vaccination process as much as possible, from December 1, Crimeans can be vaccinated directly at the Chonhar and Kalanchak Ukrainian entry-exit checkpoints. Special mobile teams work from Monday to Friday from 9 to 15. Three vaccines are available to the Crimea residents: Pfizer, Moderna and Coronavac.

Vaccinations at the checkpoints are currently being done on a first-come, first-served basis, but an online appointment will be available in the future.

At the same time, it should be noted that the initiative is not in great demand among the residents of the occupied peninsula. According to deputy chairman of the Kherson regional state administration Mykola Yakymenko, less than 40 Crimeans were vaccinated there in the first five days of the centers' operation.

"Unfortunately, there are no queues… We have posted information materials, now there will be two large billboards that the vaccination points are open. We conducted information campaign at the points (of testing for COVID-19 - ed.). People still do rapid tests, and this is nearby. Medical specialists say that they involve people in vaccinations", - he said.

According to OstroV, it is not just a failed information campaign. Many residents of the Crimea are denied vaccinations because they do not want to open, for example, a 6-dose Pfizer ampoule for one person.

"I do not need vaccinations, but I specially went into the office at the checkpoint to find out if I could get the Pfizer vaccine. They told me what they would do it, if 6 people gathered, since they would not open the ampoule for the sake of me alone. No persuasion worked. Other staff at the checkpoint told me that I was not the first. There are people who are refused with the same wording every day", - Mykhailo from the Crimea, who crossed the checkpoint in mid-December, told.

The residents of CADLO were less fortunate, since occupation authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk have tightened the passage of people across the demarcation line as much as possible. Only the Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint is open for pedestrian crossing In the Luhansk oblast, in Donetsk, the occupiers open the Novotroitske checkpoint twice a week. From the side of the controlled territory of Ukraine, all checkpoints on the contact line are open and allow people to pass without any restrictions.

There are no vaccination points at the checkpoints with the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. According to OstroV, the government considered the option of opening checkpoints back in the summer, but later it decided to abandon the idea because of the unpredictability of the checkpoints operation on the part of the occupiers.

Vaccination points are located near checkpoints, and the residents of CADLO can easily get vaccinated against coronavirus there. For example, the nearest point from the Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint is only 1 km away. A complete list of the nearest vaccination points can be found HERE.

In addition, the residents of CADLO and Crimea can sign up and receive a vaccine against COVID-19 at any other vaccination point in the controlled territory of Ukraine.

For those traveling to controlled territory to get vaccinated against coronavirus, the government has canceled mandatory self-isolation. For this, you need to present an invitation for vaccination with a Ukrainian identifier when passing the checkpoint.

Registration takes place at the number of contact center of the Ministry of Health on countering COVID-19 0 800 60 20 19.

In addition, you can sign up for vaccination at one of the population vaccination centers and vaccination points located in the government-controlled territory of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson oblasts in territorial proximity to the checkpoints of entry.

In addition to being vaccinated with a vaccine recognized by the WHO and an international certificate, which is accepted in almost all countries, the residents of CADLO and Crimea can receive a thousand hryvnias after a full course of vaccination. However, it will be possible to spend the money only on the controlled territory of Ukraine and on certain goods and services.

 

Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV