Russia's Covid nightmare driven by vaccine rejection

By Richard Galpin
BBC News Vologda, Russia

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Image caption,
Most of the patients being treated for Covid in Vologda's Hospital 1 were not vaccinated

Near the darkened entrance of Hospital Number One in the city of Vologda in Russia's north-west, an ambulance crew delivers yet another Covid patient, an elderly man struggling to breathe and barely alive.

Inside the hospital, the wards are teeming with the sick and the dying. Doctors here say out of 750 patients currently in the hospital with Covid, 700 of them had not been vaccinated.

Lives are being lost here in this region every day and this is just one of Russia's many regions.

The Covid pandemic which began in March 2020 has hit Russia particularly hard and it is now facing a virulent fourth wave of the virus.

More than 1,000 people are dying each day across the country, with a total of more than 220,000 deaths so far. These are record numbers for Russia, making it the worst-hit in Europe.

data in detail

Scroll table to see more data

*Deaths per 100,000 people

US 767,509 233.8 47,516,220
Brazil 612,659 290.3 22,017,276
India 465,911 34.1 34,518,901
Mexico 292,471 229.3 3,863,362
Russia 259,107 179.5 9,170,898
Peru 200,866 617.9 2,224,344
UK 143,927 215.3 9,845,492
Indonesia 143,739 53.1 4,253,412
Italy 133,177 220.9 4,925,688
Iran 128,956 155.5 6,077,438
Colombia 128,093 254.5 5,048,061
France 118,443 176.6 7,414,971
Argentina 116,377 259.0 5,315,348
Germany 99,130 119.2 5,400,688
South Africa 89,574 153.0 2,929,862
Spain 87,810 186.5 5,080,663
Ukraine 86,586 195.1 3,500,667
Poland 80,822 212.9 3,345,388
Turkey 75,042 89.9 8,573,524
Romania 54,959 283.9 1,762,701
Philippines 47,074 43.5 2,826,410
Chile 38,117 201.1 1,743,137
Ecuador 33,121 190.6 523,847
Hungary 32,780 335.5 998,488
Czech Republic 32,173 301.5 2,003,561
Malaysia 30,002 93.9 2,586,601
Canada 29,550 78.6 1,773,959
Pakistan 28,663 13.2 1,282,195
Bangladesh 27,953 17.1 1,574,088
Bulgaria 27,253 390.7 673,288
Belgium 26,568 231.3 1,581,500
Tunisia 25,344 216.7 716,262
Vietnam 23,761 24.6 1,094,514
Iraq 23,665 60.2 2,074,419
Thailand 20,436 29.4 2,071,009
Egypt 19,933 19.9 350,397
Bolivia 19,062 165.6 529,075
Myanmar 19,025 35.2 517,922
Netherlands 18,966 109.4 2,442,286
Japan 18,343 14.5 1,725,850
Portugal 18,321 178.4 1,122,283
Kazakhstan 17,625 95.2 1,046,722
Greece 17,313 161.6 878,920
Paraguay 16,354 232.1 462,198
Guatemala 15,840 95.4 613,892
Sweden 15,110 146.9 1,188,735
Morocco 14,761 40.5 948,923
Sri Lanka 14,127 64.8 556,626
Slovakia 13,861 254.1 1,070,736
Bosnia and Herzegovina 12,219 370.2 268,572
Austria 12,015 135.3 1,056,613
Georgia 11,553 310.5 814,097
Nepal 11,496 40.2 819,019
Switzerland 11,383 132.7 941,218
Jordan 11,361 112.5 914,849
Serbia 11,225 161.6 1,233,057
Honduras 10,387 106.6 377,420
Croatia 10,303 253.3 570,380
Moldova 8,834 332.4 358,202
Saudi Arabia 8,824 25.7 549,479
Lebanon 8,645 126.1 659,404
Cuba 8,295 73.2 960,802
Israel 8,176 90.3 1,340,874
Azerbaijan 7,624 76.1 573,974
North Macedonia 7,436 356.9 212,220
Afghanistan 7,365 19.4 156,896
Panama 7,353 173.2 475,997
Armenia 7,308 247.1 334,347
Costa Rica 7,251 143.7 565,548
Ethiopia 6,682 6.0 370,200
Lithuania 6,547 234.9 456,425
Uruguay 6,115 176.6 397,841
Algeria 6,021 14.0 208,952
Ireland 5,609 113.5 528,964
Libya 5,380 79.4 367,811
Kenya 5,328 10.1 254,710
Venezuela 5,079 17.8 425,213
Slovenia 5,063 242.5 400,685
Belarus 4,948 52.3 640,206
China 4,849 0.3 110,983
Palestinian Territories 4,770 101.8 457,950
Zimbabwe 4,699 32.1 133,647
Dominican Republic 4,186 39.0 402,731
Oman 4,113 82.7 304,492
Latvia 3,950 206.5 246,116
El Salvador 3,753 58.2 118,041
Zambia 3,667 20.5 210,070
Namibia 3,569 143.1 129,091
South Korea 3,298 6.4 418,252
Uganda 3,256 7.4 127,177
Sudan 3,099 7.2 41,558
Albania 3,035 106.3 195,988
Kosovo 2,982 166.2 161,006
Nigeria 2,974 1.5 213,589
Cambodia 2,905 17.6 119,904
Denmark 2,810 48.3 450,091
Kyrgyzstan 2,727 42.2 182,884
Syria 2,704 15.8 47,212
Kuwait 2,464 58.6 413,137
Botswana 2,416 104.9 194,445
Jamaica 2,358 80.0 90,705
Malawi 2,304 12.4 61,863
Montenegro 2,245 360.9 154,758
United Arab Emirates 2,144 21.9 741,433
Trinidad and Tobago 1,967 141.0 65,889
Mongolia 1,948 60.4 377,674
Australia 1,948 7.7 199,650
Mozambique 1,938 6.4 151,488
Yemen 1,938 6.6 9,955
Senegal 1,883 11.6 73,968
Cameroon 1,770 6.8 106,190
Estonia 1,735 130.8 217,381
Angola 1,730 5.4 65,024
Bahrain 1,394 84.9 277,389
Uzbekistan 1,378 4.1 191,576
Rwanda 1,340 10.6 100,217
Somalia 1,324 8.6 22,969
Finland 1,249 22.6 174,823
Eswatini 1,248 108.7 46,487
Ghana 1,208 4.0 130,827
Suriname 1,149 197.6 50,438
DR Congo 1,104 1.3 57,880
Norway 999 18.7 242,911
Guyana 976 124.7 37,325
Madagascar 964 3.6 43,672
Luxembourg 862 139.1 85,960
Taiwan 848 3.6 16,529
Guadeloupe 822 205.5 54,854
Mauritania 818 18.1 38,647
Tanzania 727 1.3 26,227
Haiti 711 6.3 24,768
Martinique 703 187.2 44,429
Ivory Coast 702 2.7 61,591
Fiji 695 78.1 52,453
Bahamas 671 172.3 22,655
Singapore 662 11.6 252,188
Lesotho 661 31.1 21,729
French Polynesia 636 227.7 45,609
Qatar 611 21.6 242,087
Mali 592 3.0 16,946
Cyprus 590 49.2 129,888
Belize 558 142.9 29,501
Papua New Guinea 486 5.5 34,442
Malta 463 92.1 38,709
Guinea 387 3.0 30,715
Réunion 379 42.6 57,173
Cape Verde 350 63.6 38,327
Gambia 342 14.6 9,988
Congo 339 6.3 18,717
French Guiana 322 110.7 45,583
Liberia 287 5.8 5,818
Saint Lucia 278 152.1 12,904
New Caledonia 276 95.9 11,871
Gabon 273 12.6 37,045
Burkina Faso 265 1.3 15,514
Maldives 248 46.7 90,725
Togo 243 3.0 26,207
Niger 242 1.0 6,836
Mauritius 240 19.0 18,979
Nicaragua 211 3.2 17,023
Barbados 210 73.2 23,795
Grenada 200 178.6 5,873
Djibouti 186 19.1 13,501
Mayotte 185 69.5 20,860
Curaçao 176 111.7 17,321
Chad 175 1.1 5,107
Aruba 173 162.7 16,202
Equatorial Guinea 170 12.5 13,538
Benin 161 1.4 24,846
Comoros 150 17.6 4,450
Guinea-Bissau 146 7.6 6,434
South Sudan 133 1.2 12,638
Laos 132 1.8 62,160
Andorra 130 168.5 16,086
Seychelles 125 128.0 22,895
Tajikistan 125 1.3 17,489
Timor-Leste 122 9.4 19,819
Sierra Leone 121 1.5 6,400
Antigua and Barbuda 108 111.2 4,135
Bermuda 106 165.8 5,715
Channel Islands 103 59.8 15,692
Central African Republic 101 2.1 11,666
Gibraltar 98 290.8 6,920
Brunei 96 22.2 14,591
San Marino 93 274.7 5,758
Sint Maarten 75 184.1 4,561
St Vincent and the Grenadines 73 66.0 5,391
Isle of Man 66 78.0 10,610
Liechtenstein 61 160.4 4,144
Saint Martin 56 147.4 3,993
Sao Tome and Principe 56 26.0 3,731
Eritrea 54 1.5 7,175
New Zealand 40 0.8 10,176
Burundi 38 0.3 20,332
British Virgin Islands 38 126.5 2,765
Monaco 36 92.4 3,554
Dominica 35 48.7 5,642
Iceland 34 9.4 16,435
Saint Kitts and Nevis 28 53.0 2,766
Turks and Caicos Islands 23 60.2 3,085
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba 21 80.8 2,714
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Faroe Islands 12 24.7 3,169
Wallis and Futuna Islands 7 61.2 454
Saint Barthelemy 6 60.9 1,661
Cayman Islands 4 6.2 5,532
Bhutan 3 0.4 2,632
Anguilla 3 20.2 1,268
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Montserrat 1 20.0 44
Vanuatu 1 0.3 6
Greenland 0 0.0 1,129
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 79
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 34
Vatican 0 0.0 27
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 20
Palau 0 0.0 8
Saint Helena 0 0.0 4
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 4
Samoa 0 0.0 3
Kiribati 0 0.0 2
Micronesia 0 0.0 1
Tonga 0 0.0 1
Cook Islands 0 0.0 1

Please update your browser to see full interactive

This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University and national public health agencies

Figures last updated: 22 November 2021, 09:46 GMT

The scale of new infections and deaths has alarmed authorities so much that all workplaces are to shut down for a week from the start of November and Moscow is closing non-essential services for 11 days from next Thursday.

One of the key explanations for this record number of cases and deaths is a lack of trust in the Sputnik V and other Russian-made coronavirus vaccines amongst many in the Russian population.

This, in part, is the result of many years of scepticism of what the authorities say or do.

As a result, campaigns to persuade people to have the vaccine are only gradually having any impact.

Image source, Elizaveta Vereykina/BBC
Image caption,
There were only a few people queuing for vaccinations in Vologda this week

For the medical teams in the Vologda hospital as elsewhere in the country, there is a real concern about the uptake of the Covid vaccines.

In Vologda just 26% of the population has been vaccinated, one of the lowest levels in the country.

"I am very worried about this," says Pavel Sheprinski, head of Hospital Number One. "The more unvaccinated people we have in our hospital, the more patients we have."

Pavel Sheprinski
Elizaveta Vereykina
All the capacity we have in our hospital depends on people being vaccinated
Pavel Sheprinski
Head of Vologda Hospital 1

At one of the vaccine centres set up in a large sports hall in the city, there was just a trickle of people waiting to get jabbed on Wednesday afternoon.

The situation recently prompted the governor of Vologda, Oleg Kuvshinnikov, to post a series of messages on social media pleading with people to get vaccinated.

The governor also sharply criticised those opposed to the vaccine who have taken to social media to spread anti-vaccine messages across the region.

"I'm calling on all anti-vaxxers who have unleashed merry hell on social media against vaccinations, look into the eyes of those who have lost loved ones," he said. "Our Russian vaccine is absolutely safe."

Doctors in Vologda are also shocked by the scale of anti-vaccination sentiment in the region, highlighting how those opposed to vaccination are putting elderly and vulnerable members of their families and relatives at risk.

Image source, Elizaveta Vereykina/BBC
Image caption,
Ekaterina was one of those who did get vaccinated at the centre in Vologda on Wednesday

But in her office in the city, a vaccine sceptic called Elena described why she was wary of the vaccine. She argued there was a lot of contradictory information coming from many sources including the authorities in the region. People were afraid of the unknown, she said.

"We don't understand what this vaccine is," she told the BBC. "If we had all the information, all the statistics and the results of the research, I think people would have been much more loyal, but we have not seen all this."

Meanwhile, in Vologda city's main cemetery there continues to be a massive increase in the number of burials.

Image source, Elizaveta Vereykina/BBC
Image caption,
The number of burials in Vologda's main cemetery is rising

Previously it had an average of 50 burials a week, now it has double that.

For families burying loved ones there is no escape from the coronavirus restrictions.

Those carrying the coffin to the grave must do so wearing full protective equipment.

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