• =?UTF-8?Q?Many_Russians_won=E2=80=99t_get_vaccinated_against_COVID=2D1?

    From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Mon Oct 25 13:30:16 2021
    Many Russians won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19.
    A dog catcher explains why.
    By Xenia Cherkaev, 10/22/21, The Bulletin

    A riddle from Russia: In a country where so many people
    have lost friends or family members to COVID-19, why is
    the pandemic taken so lightly? Sports festivals and
    international dog shows went ahead this summer as planned
    while crematoria overflowed with dead bodies. Masks are
    typically seen as an annoying formality, a& people don't
    seem shocked by discrepant death counts. Between one state
    agency & another, death tallies diverge by over 200,000.
    How big a problem is the pandemic in Russia? In an
    important sense, we just don’t know.

    What we do know is that the country is heading into a
    4th wave of COVID-19, & while case numbers are rising,
    vaccination numbers are not. In 2020, Russia touted
    Sputnik V as the world’s “first authorized COVID-19
    vaccine” & launched an effective export campaign: inter-
    national vaccine sales garnered over $700 million in the
    first 8 months of 2021. But inside the country itself,
    only about 30% of the population is fully vaccinated, &
    most people don’t want to be. The Levada Center, an
    independent polling agency, repeatedly finds that over
    half of the people they survey claim not to be afraid of
    contracting COVID-19. Denis Volkov, Levada’s director
    explains: “[E]ven though people are concerned, & even
    though they see their friends & relatives dying around
    them, many are still not ready to be vaccinated because
    they do not believe the authorities.”

    To confront this deep well of anti-vaccine attitudes,
    authorities have tried car raffles, cash prizes, & local
    vaccine mandates. But they face an uphill battle in a
    country where people tend to view laws in terms of whose
    special interests they serve. They’ll face Sergey
    Selivanov, for one.

    I met him this past August, in Ryazan—a regional capital of
    about 500,000 known for its military-technical institutions,
    a 3-hour drive from Moscow. He’s a dog catcher; I’m a
    legal anthropologist studying the regulation of stray cats
    & dogs. My research isn’t specifically related to the
    pandemic, but it has led me to see how people work in
    systems of governance that they themselves find dangerously
    irrational. And for many people in Russia today, such
    irrationality extends to the official policies implemented
    to curb the spread of COVID-19. As Sergey & I drove around
    his city, I heard in his position echoes of a political
    sentiment I had heard throughout Russia over the previous
    months. He told me that he & his wife had both had COVID,
    & that it made them both horrendously sick. But he also
    told me that he’s against the vaccines: He doubts their
    effectiveness, doubts their safety, & he doubts that the
    govt’s vaxx campaign is driven by good intentions.

    Sergey’s doubt touches on news stories & social media
    rumors, & it grounds on his lack of faith in the fairness
    & trustworthiness of Russian state governance. “When
    someone’s trying to organize a political meeting,” he said,
    “suddenly there’s COVID. But when they want to hold
    celebratory parades—no COVID?” Vaccine hesitancy in Russia
    today is often traced to a total distrust of the state—&
    such distrust is not wholly unfounded. Sergey & I discussed
    the massive public festivals St. Petersburg hosted this
    summer as the delta strain raged, we discussed how his
    local clinic diagnosed his tell-tale COVID symptoms as
    “acute bronchitis.” We both agree that official stats
    can't be trusted. The sentiment is common in Russia these
    days, shared by biologists, demographers, journalists,
    doctors, even by St. Petersburg’s ombudsman for human
    rights. Not only do two state agencies publish radically
    different numbers, but independent analysis gives reason
    to doubt them both. A similar statistical murkiness & lack
    of transparency has delayed Sputnik V’s emergency-use
    approval by the World Health Org, even as reputable studies
    have shown the vaccine to be effective and safe.

    I am vaccinated with Sputnik. I have a high antibody
    count, & I haven’t been sick. Sergey is not vaccinated, &
    doesn't plan to be. He is resolutely opposed. If he were
    to be subject to a vaccine mandate, he told me, he might
    go to court. But while the question of COVID-19 vaccines
    often splits people into irreconcilable camps —pro & anti—
    I don’t think Sergey crazy for doubting. From where he
    stands, the vaccine is not a question of collective
    immunity but of legal pressure. And Sergey knows firsthand
    that laws today often make for unsafe & unhealthy worlds.

    As a dog catcher, Sergey works within the limits of a law
    whose logic he himself knows to be terrible. Adopted in
    2018, this Federal Law N498 is the focal point of my
    study, the reason that I came to Ryazan. It decrees stray
    dogs & cats “ownerless” animals & forbids euthanizing them.
    It mandates instead that such animals be caught, castrated,
    & released back to the streets, or else kept kenneled at
    the expense of regional budgets until they die of natural
    causes. But Canis lupus familiaris is a pack-hunting
    predator. Free-roaming dogs destroy private property, kill
    family pets, spread diseases, & terrorize & attack people.
    To protect themselves & their communities, people in turn
    often brutalize street-dogs. Sergey has a dog at work that
    he & his colleagues are trying to figure out what to do
    with: They went out on call to catch her & met neighbors
    who swore that they’d kill her if they saw her again near
    their building. “She’s a nice dog,” Sergey explained,
    “but she eats cats.” Sergey feels bad for the dog, for the
    neighborhood cats & their owners, for the whole situation.
    But by law, his firm must release the dog back to the
    place where they caught her—& laws are to be reckoned with,
    even when they are irrational.

    As we drove, Sergey & I discussed heinous cases from many
    Russian regions: little children mauled to death; senior
    citizens dismembered & partially eaten near their own
    houses; grown men & women attacked, mutilated, killed. We
    discuss how Putin has claimed street dogs to be an
    “inalienable part of the ecological system of cities,” &
    how the state’s started giving out medals “for valor” to
    people who’ve saved their fellow citizens from packs of
    dogs. A retired military dog handler, Sergey is well
    informed of the zoonotic danger dogs pose, especially in
    spreading echinococcosis & rabies. He has 2 dogs at home.
    Every year, he vaccinates & deworms them & marks their
    vet-passports accordingly. But legally “ownerless” dogs
    only get one shot of the rabies vaccine before he sets
    them free; he couldn’t revaccinate them if he wanted.
    Per Federal Law N498, it is illegal to recapture a dog
    that’s been tagged. And perhaps “setting them free” isn’t
    the best way to put it: These dogs sometimes chase his
    car for blocks when he leaves them. So he feels bad for
    them too. It’d be better to put them down, he reasons—if
    not for this stupid law that forbids euthanasia.

    For many people in Russia today, the law is a web of
    regulations in which they seek loopholes to safeguard
    themselves & their social collectives from truly terrible
    outcomes. Some people, like Sergey, see the irrationality
    of this web in regs pertaining to animal management. Others
    see it in other spheres. People complain about having been
    coerced into voting at work. They laugh at the State Duma—
    AKA the “the rabid printer”—for the quality & quantity of
    new laws it adopts. Some people are outraged by new laws
    branding politically dissident citizens and independent
    media orgs “foreign agents.” Some are demoralized by tax
    & investment incentives that let corporations sell the
    country’s natural resources for private profit, while
    small Russian towns scrape by on Soviet-era infrastructure.
    Some are incensed by the zoning regs & governance schemes
    that allow trout fisheries to pollute their waterways,
    landfills to be built near their towns, & their forests
    to be stripped of their timber. In every such case, the
    law is seen as something with practical force but little
    moral standing: not an embodiment of the commonweal, &
    often a threat to community interests.

    Legal systems generate a certain mystical power, that,
    when it works, makes people believe that the rules
    governing our social worlds are not only compulsory but
    also reasonable, even righteous. But this aura of
    righteousness must be a quality of the legal system itself,
    it doesn't stick to particular regs in a patchwork fashion.
    Facing a 4th wave of infections, top state officials have
    once again called for people to be vaxxed as quickly as
    possible. But their electorate does not believe them. For
    people like Sergey, there is nothing inherently reasonable
    about the policies thru which his country is governed. So
    when the state speaks of vaccinations, Sergey thinks of
    the practical force of the law: He thinks of which regs
    might force him to be vaxxed, by whose will, for whose
    interest, & to what personal consequence. Widespread
    mistrust in the govt’s motives, communications, & laws
    extends even to policies & regs that are perfectly sensible:
    People prefer to take their chances with COVID-19 instead
    of accepting a state-backed vaccine because they don't
    believe that their country is reasonably or fairly governed.
    And this is something that neither the bait of car raffles
    nor the threat of vaccine mandates will fix.


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