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Sputnik strikes tempt some Russians based in Finland in the east

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Raisa Moukha and Yuri Gippoev, a retired Russian couple who live in Kotka.

Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

Some Russian nationals residing in Finland decide to travel to their country of origin to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

This was the case for Raisa Moukha and Yuri Gippoev, a retired couple who live in the port town of Kotka in southern Finland, roughly halfway between the Russian border and Helsinki.

The couple traveled to their homeland to be vaccinated against Sputnik V in their hometown of Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, in January.

The reason was to get vaccinated faster than they could in Finland.

“It was easier and more readily available,” Gippoev said, explaining that the couple had made an appointment at a Petrozavodsk dispensary.

They received both blows within three weeks.

“I think we should have waited a long time for the vaccinations [in Finland]. But we wanted to live more freely and didn’t want to wait, ”said Moukha.

Friends are also heading east

The couple said they have active lives and want life to get back to normal as soon as possible. Moukha said she knew of other Russian nationals in Finland who were planning similar trips to Russia for vaccinations.

“My friend is leaving Lahti for St. Petersburg and another friend from Kouvola is heading for Moscow,” she explained.

The Sputnik V vaccine (pronounced like the letter, not the Roman numeral) has received a lot of international media attention since it began rolling out last year. Russia also exported the vaccine abroad, including to EU states, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The story continues after the photo.

Venäläinen Raisa Moukha haki Sputnik V -koronarokotteen Petroskoista tammikuussa 2021.

Raisa Moukha.

Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

Given the global rollout, one would think Russia’s vaccinations are going particularly well. However, this is not the case at the moment.

In St. Petersburg, for example, just over six percent of the population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Tarja Teittinen, director of service at the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce in St. Petersburg.

More generally, less than five percent of people in Russia have received the beatings, according to the Russian government services website gogov.ru, which provides official coronavirus vaccination statistics.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, around 15.5% of the Finnish population had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Most of these people are elderly, belong to other risk groups or work in the health sector.

The story continues after the photo.

Sputnik V -rokotteen ampulleja pöydällä.

Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

Image: Grigory Vorobjov / Yle

Like other coronavirus vaccine producers, Russia has experienced slowdowns due to production difficulties as the country lacks the capacity to manufacture large quantities of the vaccine on its own. For example, the country has turned to Germany to mass produce jabs.

Another reason for the low vaccination rates in the country is that many Russians are wary of vaccines, especially domestic varieties.

“Some take the vaccine, some don’t. The vaccine suppliers have had public relations problems. The vaccinations didn’t start easily,” Teittinen said.

Easier access to Russia

However, for those who want the jab, it is easier to get the vaccine in Russia than in Finland. While risk groups are a priority in Russia, vaccinations are not as strictly distributed to specific demographic groups as in Finland.

In Russia, people can get the vaccine if they are active, according to Teittinen.

She said there were coronavirus vaccination points in places like shopping malls. Appointments can be booked in advance and some even offer a walk-in service, she explained, noting that she had also been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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