Despite the vast state-orchestrated promotion campaign of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, most Russians remain wary.
Despite Russia's efforts to promote its Sputnik V vaccine both domestically and internationally, its own citizens are showing little interest in being inoculated with it, dealing a major blow to Moscow's vaccine diplomacy.
Dozens of countries, particularly in Latin America and Asia, have either ordered or already imported millions of Sputnik V doses in order to vaccinate their respective populations against Covid-19.
While the Russian vaccine has had many takers abroad, it has been snubbed at home. The country at the moment features at the top for having the world’s highest vaccine hesitancy among its citizens.
By Monday, just 4.57 Sputnik V doses were administered per 100 people in Russia where access to the vaccine is free and widely available, according to Oxford University’s project of Our World in Data.
The data is counted as a single dose and does not reflect the total number of people vaccinated.
Compared to Western nations, which accused Russia of spreading misinformation to undermine their vaccine confidence, the UK and the US have administered 34.65 and 27.30 percent doses until now.
The number of doses administered by the European Union per 100 people is more than double compared to Russia.
However, nearly two-thirds of Russians are not willing to receive the domestically produced formula, and about the same number believe this coronavirus was created artificially as a biological weapon, according to an independent pollster.
For instance, 71 percent of 40-54 year old Russians hold the belief that the virus was created to cause biological harm, while only 23 percent of people think the virus emerged naturally.
The Levada Center said a poll it conducted last month showed that 62 percent of people did not want Russia’s domestically produced vaccine, and that the highest level of reluctance was identified among 18 to 24-year-olds.
Most respondents cited side effects, which can include fever and fatigue, as their main reason.
"Russians are conservative: they don't trust their own state and they don't trust whatever can come out of this state," Andrei Kortunov told BBC, explaining why people hesitate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pressure on the country’s top scientists to develop Sputnik V rapidly is seen as another reason behind Russian scepticism against it.
Is Russia involved in denigrating Western vaccines?
According to a Wall Street Journal report, which quoted an American official, Russian intelligence services have carried out an online campaign to undermine Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, along with other variants produced by Western nations.
The source, who was not named in the report, told the WSJ that Russia-linked websites had used online publications in recent months to raise doubts and confusion over American and European vaccines.
An official from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which looks into foreign disinformation efforts, found that four websites linked to Russian intelligence were spreading false information about some inoculations.
These websites mainly focused on the possible risk of side effects and also questioned their efficacy.