The strain of mistrust // Anastasia Manuilova on why vaccination in the Russian Federation is becoming mandatory only now

The news about the introduction of compulsory vaccination for some workers in certain industries in Moscow and the Moscow region, as expected, caused two storms at the same time – enthusiasm and indignation (see “Kommersant” on June 17). Supporters of the “obligation” said that without it, Russia will face not only the third, but also the fourth, and the fifth, and all new waves of coronavirus. Opponents – demanded to respect civil liberties and provide new evidence of the safety of the vaccine proposed by the state.

Kommersant’s map: to what extent and how is Russia and the world vaccinated against COVID-19

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These opponents of vaccination, of course, have already become the talk of the town. Literally everyone now has an anti-vaccine friend. I am an elderly couple who are obese and have heart problems. The set of objections to vaccination is standard: “there are more consequences from vaccination than from the disease itself.” By the way, I met them yesterday, asked if they had changed their minds and if they were going to finally get vaccinated. “So we got sick!” – they told me, beaming with joy: they escaped the terrible fate of being vaccinated, and what they got sick is nonsense.

However, the dispute between supporters and opponents of vaccination has been going on for several months and its current round is unlikely to give rise to new or interesting arguments.

However, the very fact of the existence of this dispute in our country and the possibility until the last moment not to be vaccinated during a deadly pandemic is very remarkable.

For many years, especially in the Western media, Russia has been described as a country with an omnipotent and total propaganda machine that convinced citizens of literally everything the authorities needed. The fact that they need Crimea, that America is their enemy, and that Russia has a great future that can only be envied.

But, as it turned out during the pandemic, this omnipotent propaganda lacks the strength to convince Russians of much simpler, and most importantly, truthful things. The fact that you need to wash your hands, that you need to wear masks, and, finally, that you need to be vaccinated to end the pandemic. No, it doesn’t work, and that’s it. Despite the commercials on TV, billboards with grafted stars, and even a car raffle, Russia remains a country with almost the minimum number of vaccinated among developed countries.

The communication failure in promoting the idea of ​​vaccination is all the more surprising because, unlike Russian political projects, the achievements in health care are quite real.

If in foreign policy all these years the principle “the worse the better” was obviously working, and as more and more complications in relations with other countries the idea of ​​“Russia in the ring of enemies” was sold better, then in medicine everything turned out exactly the opposite. Despite the increase in the efficiency of Russian health care – and this, in particular, is evidenced by the fact that over the past 20 years life expectancy has increased almost every year – confidence in it has gradually declined.

The main role in this, obviously, was played by the myth of destructive optimization – although in reality it was about the closure of individual medical institutions, which were often in an emergency state. However, the social bloc of the government apparently failed to clearly convey this to the population, which led to the emergence of a widespread opinion that a hospital with tomographs should be in any village, even if there are three people left from the village itself, and to close even the most recent medical facility is terrible a crime against your people.

As a result, a paradox emerges: what the Russian government does well – cares about the population, it cannot “sell” to this very population.

And the consequences of this are much longer-term than the current difficulties with vaccination against coronavirus. Because in the future, the treatment of diseases of citizens with their direct participation will become the main task of any state, especially if this pandemic is not the last, and Russia is no exception.

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