NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Russia) -- Ramilya Shigalturina, a Russian immunization advocate, stood in front of the morgue with the body of her grandmother, who had died from COVID-19.
"I beg all Russians to get vaccinated," said the resident from Nizhny Novgorod (the country's fifth largest city).
Shigalturina stated that her 83-year old grandmother died right away after she caught it. She wasn't vaccinated.
Russia was the first country to develop a coronavirus vaccine last year, and it was celebrated as a matter national pride and a demonstration of its scientific knowledge. Only a third of Russia's 146million people have been fully vaccinated since December 2020 when the free vaccination program was launched.
Low vaccine acceptance is of growing concern as Russia experiences a sharp increase in cases setting new records for infections, deaths and nearly every day this month. The national coronavirus taskforce reported 1,064 deaths and 37,000 new infections in the last 24 hours. This is another high-profile pandemic.
Vladimir Putin admitted that he didn't understand the situation, which was a rare admission from the strong leader. We have a reliable, efficient vaccine. This vaccine reduces the risk of serious complications, death, and illness.
The Infectious Hospital No. 23 in Nizhny Novgorod. 23. Dr. Natalia Soloshenko, where seriously ill patients are confined to wards that have very little space between them beds, is battered by this onslaught.
According to The Associated Press, "I can assure you that only one or two out of 50 patients admitted are vaccinated," said the chief doctor. "All of the patients in the ICU are extremely critical; they all have not been vaccinated.
She said, "To be completely honest, we aren't even outraged anymore; instead, we feel sorry for those people."
Nina Pugacheva remains in hospital but is one lucky person -- she is currently recovering.
She said, "Tell everyone you know to get vaccinated."
Soloshenko stated that widespread misinformation seems to be the driving force behind vaccine hesitancy.
"It's a sensitive topic, and a burning issue to all health care workers. She said that she reads the social media posts and finds the most harmful information about vaccinations from citizens.
Because of distrust in Soviet-era authorities, many Russians are skeptical of vaccines. There was concern about Sputnik V because it was approved before full clinical trials were completed.
Some critics have also blamed contradicting signals from authorities. Sputnik V, three other domestic vaccines were praised by the state, but Western-made shots were often criticised by the media, which many considered to be a sign of doubt about vaccines.
Although the vaccination rate in Nizhny Novgorod, located about 400 km (250 miles) east from Moscow, is 44% lower than the national average it is still experiencing a high death rate. In the last day, 40 deaths were reported by the coronavirus taskforce -- almost twice the number of deaths recorded in Moscow.
As deaths spiked, regional Gov. Gleb Nikitin stated that new measures would be taken in order to stop the spread of the infection, but they have not been publicly announced.
On Wednesday, Putin ordered Russians not to work between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7, which includes a national holiday of four days.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are the most populous Russian cities, and also the country's major political, business, and cultural centers. They have announced new restrictions after months of inaction.
Moscow's cinemas, bars, and entertainment venues will be closed between Oct. 28 and Nov. 7. Takeout and delivery are available at all restaurants.
Monday's introduction of digital codes by the authorities in St. Petersburg for proof of vaccination was made. These codes must be presented beginning Nov. 1, to gain entry to conferences and sporting events. These codes will be required in movies, theatres, museums, gyms, and cafes starting Nov. 15. They will also be required in restaurants, cafes, and some stores starting Dec. 1.
Moscow tried a similar code system in the summer, but it was rejected by restaurant owners after just a few weeks.