‘We consider the public opinion’: Tatarstan Health Care Ministry discusses omicron and local QR code rules
Breastfeeding mothers were recommended not to be concerned about their babies, people who recovered from the disease were asked not to do antibodies tests
On 1 December, the Tatarstan authorities discussed fears because of the appearance of the new omicron variant, which can allegedly successfully resists vaccines. While Vice Minister of Health Care of Tatarstan and head of Kazan’s Health Care Office Vladimir Zhavoronkov didn’t rule out that coronavirus would turn out a type of acute viral respiratory infection, which will stay with us forever, and everybody will have to somehow live with it. In a talk with Tatarstan Vice Premier Leyla Fazleyeva, he explained the difference between the republican and federal QR codes and why the first one couldn’t be obtained via the State Services and it was pointless for people who recovered from the disease to learn the amount of antibodies in the organism.
“We are at a very serious crossroads like the whole world”
Commenting on the news about the omicron variant, Tatarstan Vice Premier Leyla Fazleyeva admitted that everybody “is already very tired” of such a situation with the pandemic:
“Of course, such messages just cast a shadow on the mood on New Year’s eve, and we are again very seriously concerned about the appearance of new variants,” she recognised.
According to her, when the pandemic was just beginning in March 2020, in a talk with her, Vice Minister of Health Care of Tatarstan and head of Kazan’s Health Care Office Vladimir Zhavoronkov “predicted” coronavirus wouldn’t end quickly. While the Health Care Ministry, as Fazleyeva noted, “drew quite a long trajectory” from the very beginning.
Nevertheless, Zhavoronkov claimed, vaccination will so far play an important role in protecting society. Perhaps, services working with post-COVID-19 complications will appear as a consequence. This is why representatives of the Health Care Ministry are trying to persuade Tatarstan’s population to get vaccinated, before seeing such consequences, let alone deaths.
“Vaccination nowadays is the only way of reducing the probability of falling ill, and as a consequence, long-term post-COVID-19 complications while coronavirus will exist with us,” the functionary confidently claimed.
What’s the difference between republican and federal QR codes today
At the same time, Leyla Fazleyeva says, the government understands that mandatory QR codes in public transport evoke resistance. Of course, they aren’t yet going to be cancelled. However, today there are two ways of getting them.
The State Services website where a federal full vaccination certificate valid across Russia is issued is the first and most obvious way. The second one is a republican QR code that those Tatarstan residents who have received just the first vaccine but haven’t been able to use public transport to go to work since 22 November need now.
The specifics of obtaining a republican code, Zhavoronkov noted, is that it is issued only at polyclinics at the place of residence. It is senseless to get them for those who have been fully vaccinated, they should receive a federal certificate with a Russian QR code.
“There wasn’t such an order previously, but we consider the popular opinion, the petitions we receive,” the Tatarstan vice health care minister admitted. “And a republican QR code system was created within a short time. And those who have received the first dose can get a corresponding certificate [at the polyclinic].”
QR code’s validity term is 24 days because of delay in issuing the certificate on State Services
So today Tatarstan citizens are divided into those who show a vaccination certificate from the State Services (who have been fully immunised and received a federal code) and those who present a paper certificate about the first dose. However, the republican authorities warn that this certificate can be obtained only at polyclinics. Mobile vaccination sites — in shopping malls and other public places — can issue only a certificate to get a QR code at the polyclinic. The validity term of such a republican certificate is 24 days after the first day of vaccination. Since immunity starts to be formed only after the first jab, the Tatarstan authorities give 21 days, a period is given to receive the first dose, and another three days.
“We give three days, a kind of lag, to receive a certificate about full vaccination on the State Services. It is no secret that messages about a delay in information about vaccination appear from time to time,” Vladimir Zhavoronkov acknowledged.
He reminded the audience that the validity term of federal certificates about full vaccination is a year. The validity period of certificates for people who recovered from coronavirus is the same (Editor’s note: it used to be given for six months, later, the duration was extended). Zhavoronkov assured the citizens that the Health Care Ministry is trying to speak not only as functionaries but also help those Tatarstan residents who haven’t yet received it for some reason to get a certificate.
According to Leyla Fazleyeva, there is another problem of receiving QR codes for people who have contraindications that don’t allow getting vaccinated. The Tatarstan Health Care Ministry admits the issue is tough.
“Yes, there are clear contraindications. But when we carefully examined the problem, we understood cases could not be standardised. Doctors’ commissions were created at every polyclinic as “courts of justice.” It is up to them to rule if there is a reason for a medical exemption or not. One’s therapist issues a republican medical exemption, but a commission makes a decision on its issue, it also determines the validity period of such a medical exemption,” Vladimir Zhavoronkov explained (earlier, a medical exemption was provided for six months).
“Personally, I haven’t done a test for antibodies even once over this time”
Apart from travellers, tourists, foreign workers, the hot-button issue affect breastfeeding months, some of whom would like to be given a medical exemption out of fear for their baby. This won’t be done anymore: in October 2021, breastfeeding was excluded from the list of contraindications, while the WHO recommended breastfeeding mothers to be vaccinated as early as July. Zhavoronkov even noted that babies in such cases not only won’t be subjected to risk but can even be protected from coronavirus through a vaccine mothers were inoculated with. The Ministry of Health Care doesn’t recommend counting antibodies after recovering from coronavirus. There are still a lot of questions here — there are different tests and diagnostics.
“There are a lot of unknowns. We have a number of producers of amazing tests for antibodies. The problem is that manufacturers have different norms. So our citizens will check their antibodies doing one test and have 20, while some time later, doing another test, they will see 300. It feels like the number of antibodies has increased. This is absolutely wrong. Personally, I haven’t done a test for antibodies even once over this time (Editor’s note: Zhavoronkov fell ill in August 2020). I think this can only make me doubt,” the functionary claimed.
At the end of the event, Leyla Fazleyeva assured the people that the introduction of QR codes and vaccination had already the necessary effect on the health care system, which the authorities see: in number of admissions into hospitals, number of occupied beds, number of deaths, number of severe COVID-19 cases.