Almir Abashev, Tatarstan Health Care Ministry: ‘I really hope that we will have herd immunity by May’
The pace of vaccination against COVID-19 remains low, the ministry notes
57 sites are operating in Tatarstan now where one can receive a vaccine against the coronavirus infection voluntarily. First of all, three special groups will be vaccinated, it is workers who actively contact the population — health workers, teachers, students, statespeople — and other categories. Then it will be the turn of pensioners and the rest. Tatarstan residents will receive Gamaleya’s vaccine Sputnik V. While EpiVacCorona made by VECTOR Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology will go to those regions of the country where the population lives in remote settlements. Journalists were told about this and what results were expected from vaccination, how safe the vaccine was and if the rumours about downsides of the vaccine were true on 12 January.
Overall vaccination already eliminated rubella and diphtheria in Tatarstan
According to historical data, a man received the first vaccine as early as 300 years ago when an eight-year-old boy was vaccinated against smallpox in England, Tatarstan’s chief doctor Marina Patyashina told journalists. According to doctors of those times, precisely this vaccine helped the boy not to catch the dreadful disease. Since that moment, vaccination has been considered as one of the effective ways to fight epidemics. Today the Russian vaccination schedule has 12 vaccines against different infectious diseases.
So thanks to vaccination at birth, the speaker said, no case of diphtheria has been registered on the territory of the republic since 2009, while acute viral hepatitis B hasn’t been reported in children since 2010, rubella hasn’t been found since 2011. Moreover, the republic hasn’t had new cases of poliomyelitis for more than 25 years — a disease that used to make a person disabled forever. Patyashina named a 12-fold reduction in the flu incidence in the last five years as undoubted success of vaccination. 61% of the population received vaccines against the seasonal viral disease last autumn.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, all hopes are pinned on the population’s next vaccination. As it is known, several vaccines against coronavirus were developed in Russia, particularly EpiVacCorona created by VECTOR Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology and two-component Sputnik V designed by scientists of the Gamaleya Institute, which is already used. The majority of Russia’s population will be inoculated with this vaccine, including Tatarstan residents. While VECTOR’s vaccine will go to the country’s remote regions, as its storage terms are +2-8 degrees Celsius and it is easier and safer to transport to remote settlements. Sputnik’s conditions are much stricter — it is -18 degrees Celsius, while the vaccine is effective only for two hours after thawing.
“The live vaccine isn’t used in the production of both vaccines, this is why it is impossible to contract the novel coronavirus infection either in theory or in practice. Any vaccine is effective, of course, it doesn’t guarantee 100% protection against the disease, but a vaccinated person has either a mild case of the disease or doesn’t have symptoms, there certainly won’t be severe cases, there won’t be complications and deaths.”
By the way, as Patyashina thinks, one will anyway have to wear a mask even after vaccination because vaccination has covered just a small number of residents of the republic, and the risk of spreading is obvious at the moment.
“We understand the vaccine is nearly 100% safe”
The production of Sputnik V has been mass, but the demand is high enough. According to Tatarstan’s Vice Health Care Minister Almir Abashev, nowadays the republic has received 12,500 doses of this vaccine, the latest supply was on 11 January. Tatarstan will receive another 190,500 doses of the medicine until late February.
“Unfortunately, the vaccination pace isn’t high, though 57 vaccination sites have been created in Tatarstan,” Abashev said. They are located mainly in cities, this is why country people will have to go to a regional centre to receive the vaccine. People who want to receive a vaccine against coronavirus can see their GP who, according to Abashev, will “become a guide between the vaccination room and the patient”.
It will be necessary to visit the vaccination site twice, the second one is 21 days after the first vaccination. During all this time, while the organism creates immunity, better avoid public places, don’t be too cold and take care of yourself, Abashev advised. Immunity against COVID-19 after the two stages of vaccination should appear in 2-3 weeks.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding, cancer, acute infectious diseases are contraindications to administering the vaccine. Moreover, youngsters under 18 years won’t be vaccinated. As the head of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog in Tatarstan explained, children aren’t a risk group, and the share of those who had coronavirus is so small unlike adults and the elderly.
Marina Patyashina also quashed the rumour that the vaccine was dangerous for those who already had COVID-19 and they shouldn’t receive the vaccine. By scientists’ estimates, she said, immunity stays for 6-8 months after the disease, this is why vaccination won’t do harm and will reinforce the organism’s protective functions. A test for antibodies won’t be necessary in case of mass vaccination, she added:
“When a large amount of the vaccine arrives, there is no need to sort who has antibodies and who hasn’t. We receive vaccines against the flu and don’t test immunity, and here the situation is the same.”
Another rumour spreading in society is about an alleged negative impact of the vaccine on the reproductive function. The representative of the Health Care Ministry, this idea is “wrong, of course”.
“A vaccine is a completely different substance, not like an antiviral medicine patients with coronavirus were treated with, it is just fragments of RNA virus that penetrate the organism on a ‘Trojan horse’ in the form of adenovirus. This is why there is no link between the two substances, the antiviral medicine and Sputnik V. The ingredients, their mechanisms are completely different.”
A lot is said about different cases of complications on the Internet, even a death after vaccination against coronavirus. As Abashev stressed, “Nowadays there hasn’t been registered a single case of complication and we understand the vaccine is nearly 100% safe”.
“I really hope that we will have herd immunity by May”
70% herd immunity will help cope with the spread of coronavirus. As it is known, last year, Tatarstan became a pilot site for herd immunity, 3,000 people became the participants. Scientists calculate that only a third of the participants had immunity in June, in December, this indicator exceeded 50%.
“Given the pace of immunity creation, even in such a small group, we can suppose that herd immunity thanks to such a vaccination will be 196,500 people by spring (Editor’s Note: earlier, the Tatarstan Health Ministry talked about 190,000 doses, that’s to say, 95,000 vaccinated people). If we vaccinate them as soon as possible, I really hope that we will have herd immunity by May, which will allow us to take a breath from the novel coronavirus infection’s spreading speed.”
By the way, everybody who was vaccinated against coronavirus will be added to a federal register of the Russian Health Care Ministry, which will then enable to receive a certificate confirming one has been vaccinated against coronavirus. As it is considered, it will allow travelling between countries of the world without problem. Such a document is still created at federal level, Almir Abashev noted.
“Your loyal servant has already been vaccinated, with two vaccines, we are waiting for antibodies, we will do a test. I hope other staffs will also follow our example, the example of directors.”