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 773,022 235.5 48,014,234
Brazil 614,278 291.1 22,080,906
India 468,790 34.3 34,580,832
Mexico 293,897 230.4 3,883,842
Russia 267,527 185.3 9,403,480
Peru 201,108 618.6 2,234,075
UK 144,775 216.6 10,146,915
Indonesia 143,808 53.1 4,255,936
Italy 133,674 221.7 5,007,818
Iran 129,629 156.3 6,108,882
Colombia 128,437 255.1 5,065,373
France 118,894 177.3 7,620,048
Argentina 116,529 259.3 5,326,448
Germany 100,960 121.4 5,804,140
Ukraine 90,642 204.2 3,594,720
South Africa 89,797 153.3 2,961,406
Spain 87,955 186.8 5,131,012
Poland 83,037 218.7 3,507,828
Turkey 76,446 91.6 8,748,025
Romania 56,275 290.7 1,776,949
Philippines 48,361 44.7 2,831,807
Chile 38,313 202.2 1,759,405
Hungary 33,866 346.6 1,068,888
Ecuador 33,128 190.7 524,432
Czech Republic 32,929 308.6 2,132,380
Malaysia 30,309 94.9 2,623,816
Canada 29,686 79.0 1,794,286
Pakistan 28,718 13.3 1,284,365
Bulgaria 28,101 402.8 689,356
Bangladesh 27,978 17.2 1,575,784
Belgium 26,840 233.7 1,701,633
Tunisia 25,363 216.9 717,258
Vietnam 24,882 25.8 1,210,340
Iraq 23,793 60.5 2,079,622
Thailand 20,734 29.8 2,111,566
Egypt 20,347 20.3 356,718
Netherlands 19,317 111.4 2,599,579
Bolivia 19,161 166.4 536,472
Myanmar 19,088 35.3 521,561
Portugal 18,417 179.3 1,142,707
Japan 18,354 14.5 1,726,479
Greece 17,959 167.6 924,506
Kazakhstan 17,765 96.0 1,053,427
Paraguay 16,367 232.3 462,605
Guatemala 15,928 95.9 617,610
Sweden 15,145 147.2 1,198,848
Morocco 14,774 40.5 949,732
Sri Lanka 14,305 65.6 562,520
Slovakia 14,274 261.7 1,152,125
Bosnia and Herzegovina 12,456 377.3 272,798
Austria 12,388 139.6 1,143,283
Georgia 11,974 321.8 840,593
Serbia 11,588 166.9 1,250,393
Jordan 11,551 114.3 943,305
Nepal 11,523 40.3 820,878
Switzerland 11,471 133.8 986,834
Croatia 10,759 264.5 603,316
Honduras 10,402 106.7 377,859
Moldova 9,069 341.2 362,433
Saudi Arabia 8,833 25.8 549,695
Lebanon 8,709 127.0 668,087
Cuba 8,300 73.2 962,220
Israel 8,189 90.5 1,342,498
Azerbaijan 7,807 77.9 585,783
North Macedonia 7,547 362.2 215,009
Armenia 7,514 254.0 337,931
Panama 7,362 173.4 477,514
Afghanistan 7,308 19.2 157,218
Costa Rica 7,287 144.4 566,560
Ethiopia 6,740 6.0 371,262
Lithuania 6,719 241.1 468,494
Uruguay 6,129 177.0 399,348
Algeria 6,058 14.1 210,152
Ireland 5,652 114.4 560,054
Libya 5,438 80.2 371,571
Kenya 5,333 10.1 254,951
Slovenia 5,188 248.5 417,376
Venezuela 5,138 18.0 430,696
Belarus 5,054 53.4 651,839
China 4,849 0.3 111,176
Palestinian Territories 4,789 102.2 459,479
Zimbabwe 4,705 32.1 133,991
Dominican Republic 4,204 39.1 406,803
Latvia 4,146 216.8 252,413
Oman 4,113 82.7 304,519
El Salvador 3,771 58.4 119,803
Zambia 3,667 20.5 210,143
South Korea 3,580 6.9 444,200
Namibia 3,573 143.2 129,180
Uganda 3,252 7.3 127,451
Sudan 3,114 7.3 42,056
Albania 3,089 108.2 199,555
Kosovo 2,983 166.3 161,081
Nigeria 2,975 1.5 213,982
Cambodia 2,935 17.8 120,112
Denmark 2,872 49.4 478,927
Kyrgyzstan 2,743 42.5 183,285
Syria 2,739 16.0 47,965
Kuwait 2,465 58.6 413,266
Botswana 2,416 104.9 194,909
Jamaica 2,388 81.0 91,169
Malawi 2,305 12.4 61,897
Montenegro 2,285 367.3 156,873
United Arab Emirates 2,146 22.0 741,918
Trinidad and Tobago 2,115 151.6 70,136
Australia 1,997 7.9 209,143
Mongolia 1,995 61.9 381,135
Yemen 1,946 6.7 9,987
Mozambique 1,940 6.4 151,524
Senegal 1,885 11.6 73,985
Estonia 1,791 135.0 221,549
Cameroon 1,791 6.9 106,794
Angola 1,733 5.4 65,144
Uzbekistan 1,399 4.2 193,065
Bahrain 1,394 84.9 277,585
Rwanda 1,342 10.6 100,330
Somalia 1,327 8.6 23,016
Finland 1,309 23.7 182,284
Eswatini 1,248 108.7 46,538
Ghana 1,209 4.0 130,920
Suriname 1,166 200.6 50,760
DR Congo 1,104 1.3 58,115
Norway 1,050 19.6 260,921
Guyana 987 126.1 37,773
Madagascar 967 3.6 44,072
Luxembourg 866 139.7 88,108
Taiwan 848 3.6 16,588
Mauritania 831 18.4 39,178
Guadeloupe 823 205.7 55,080
Tanzania 730 1.3 26,261
Haiti 723 6.4 25,027
Martinique 707 188.3 45,010
Ivory Coast 704 2.7 61,708
Singapore 701 12.3 262,383
Fiji 696 78.2 52,494
Bahamas 671 172.3 22,734
Lesotho 662 31.1 21,755
French Polynesia 636 227.7 45,609
Qatar 611 21.6 243,132
Mali 605 3.1 17,339
Cyprus 591 49.3 131,951
Belize 570 146.0 30,165
Papua New Guinea 545 6.2 35,029
Malta 468 93.1 39,234
Guinea 387 3.0 30,763
Réunion 381 42.9 59,048
Cape Verde 349 63.5 38,362
Congo 349 6.5 18,837
Gambia 342 14.6 9,989
French Guiana 325 111.8 45,802
Liberia 287 5.8 5,821
Burkina Faso 281 1.4 15,711
Saint Lucia 280 153.2 12,977
Gabon 279 12.8 37,298
New Caledonia 276 95.9 12,105
Niger 254 1.1 6,958
Maldives 248 46.7 91,464
Togo 243 3.0 26,241
Mauritius 240 19.0 21,040
Barbados 223 77.7 24,923
Nicaragua 212 3.2 17,152
Grenada 200 178.6 5,888
Djibouti 186 19.1 13,504
Mayotte 185 69.5 20,938
Curaçao 178 113.0 17,397
Chad 175 1.1 5,107
Aruba 174 163.7 16,324
Equatorial Guinea 173 12.8 13,579
Benin 161 1.4 24,850
Laos 159 2.2 71,518
Comoros 150 17.6 4,498
Guinea-Bissau 148 7.7 6,440
South Sudan 133 1.2 12,717
Andorra 131 169.8 16,712
Seychelles 125 128.0 23,197
Tajikistan 125 1.3 17,493
Timor-Leste 122 9.4 19,822
Sierra Leone 121 1.5 6,401
Antigua and Barbuda 117 120.5 4,141
Bermuda 106 165.8 5,730
Channel Islands 103 59.8 17,326
Central African Republic 101 2.1 11,708
Gibraltar 98 290.8 7,179
Brunei 97 22.4 14,992
San Marino 93 274.7 5,930
Sint Maarten 75 184.1 4,575
St Vincent and the Grenadines 74 66.9 5,500
Isle of Man 66 78.0 11,152
Liechtenstein 61 160.4 4,507
Eritrea 60 1.7 7,318
Saint Martin 56 147.4 4,013
Sao Tome and Principe 56 26.0 3,731
New Zealand 43 0.9 11,444
Burundi 38 0.3 20,386
Dominica 38 52.9 5,955
British Virgin Islands 38 126.5 2,773
Monaco 36 92.4 3,705
Iceland 35 9.7 17,446
Saint Kitts and Nevis 28 53.0 2,782
Turks and Caicos Islands 24 62.8 3,096
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba 22 84.7 2,889
Faroe Islands 13 26.7 3,505
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Wallis and Futuna Islands 7 61.2 454
Saint Barthelemy 6 60.9 1,666
Cayman Islands 4 6.2 6,738
Bhutan 3 0.4 2,640
Anguilla 3 20.2 1,334
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Montserrat 1 20.0 44
Vanuatu 1 0.3 6
Greenland 0 0.0 1,332
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 79
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 61
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
Cook Islands 0 0.0 1
Tonga 0 0.0 1
Micronesia 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: 29 November 2021, 10:33 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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