Moscow has made the COVID-19 vaccine a legal requirement to work in most jobs that face the public.

On Wednesday June 16, the government of Moscow and the surrounding region made vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for anyone working health care, education, public transport, retail, or any other trade which involves a lot of in-person interaction. The mandate will be enforced by requiring businesses and programs to prove that at least 60 percent of their staff have their first vaccination dose by July 15, and are fully vaccinated by August 15.

Russia was one of the first countries to begin vaccinating against COVID-19, but their deployment has lagged. Only 18 million people out of the country’s 146 million have been at least partially vaccinated so far, less than 12 percent. Moscow is doing just slightly better at 14 percent. However, it is also currently experiencing a spike in infections as the new variants overtake the original strain of the disease.

“We simply must do everything to carry out mass vaccination in the shortest time possible and stop the terrible disease and stop the deaths of thousands more people,” said Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin in a statement. “It’s up to everybody whether they get vaccinated or not. But it is a personal matter only as long as you sit at home. When you go out and come into contact with other people, you are an accomplice of the epidemiological process — a chain in the link spreading this dangerous virus.”

Through the course of the pandemic, Russia has reported over 5.3 million confirmed cases of the virus, and over 127,000 deaths. Just this Tuesday, June 15, Russian officials registered over 13,000 test-positive infections. More than half of those were in Moscow. The capital city currently has over 12,000 patients being hospitalized with coronavirus, well over their capacity.

Despite the low national vaccination rate, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Russia has no nationwide plan to mandate vaccinations. President Putin called mandatory vaccination “impractical and impossible” in a May press conference.

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