Russian region orders employers to organise COVID-19 vaccines for staff

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia’s consumer health watchdog in the Yakutia region said on Tuesday that all employers must organise COVID-19 vaccines for their employees in a bid to speed up inoculation there.

The regional branch of the Rospotrebnadzor watchdog said it aimed to vaccinatd 70% of the adult population in the far eastern Russian region by July 1. Yakutia, one of the coldest places on Earth, is home to some 972,000 people.

The watchdog added that people could refuse to be vaccinated by providing their employers with a written justification explaining the reasons.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the regional government said employers could face fines of at least 200,000 roubles ($2,730) for failing to provide employees with vaccines.

Russia was the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for domestic use, prior to the start of large-scale trials. It has recorded more than 5 million coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic.

Russia rolled out its first vaccine, Sputnik V, last December, and President Vladimir Putin has insisted on the need to ramp up the production of vaccines for domestic use.

Putin and other senior Russian officials have insisted that vaccination against COVID-19 is voluntary.

An independent poll conducted in early March showed that 62% of Russians were not willing to receive the Sputnik V vaccine, with 18 to 24-year-olds most reluctant. Most gave side effects, which can include fever and fatigue, as the main reason.

($1 = 73.3075 roubles)

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