With the spread of fake news and anti-vaccine sentiment defining the pandemic era, compelling the population to get jabs could be necessary to protect large numbers of people, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has claimed.
Speaking at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum on Wednesday, entitled ‘Vaccination by Law’, the former president emphasized the role of “information and misinformation in the vaccine era.”
“Look at what is happening around us,” Medvedev said, “the role of information has become a very important issue in many countries, and is becoming an area for both contest and co-operation.
“Negative opinions – opinions about vaccination – are destructive because they can spread quite quickly in the era of global communication and digital technologies, but they can also do tremendous harm,” he added.
“I am talking about negative views of the very concept of vaccination. In this sense, our common task must be to make sure that the phenomenon does not go beyond a certain level or play a role in the overall situation.”
Discussing the question of whether to make vaccines mandatory, Medvedev said that “this is a position taken by a number of European organizations and it seems to be quite reasonable.” He went on to say that Russia is currently “relying on vaccination on a voluntary basis,” but that “sometimes, in the interests of national security and the health of the population, such vaccinations could be made mandatory.”
The politician concluded that “on the one hand, you have the value of individual lives, but on the other you have the interests of protecting the whole population.”
Medvedev, who served as president between 2008 and 2012, is the current chairman of the governing United Russia party, as well as the deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council. However, his words appear to be at odds with other senior government officials. In March, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who has been responsible for much of the response to the pandemic, told RT that compulsory immunization was not being considered.
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“Russia has quite a lot of experience with vaccination programs,” she said. “We are used to the fact it is voluntary. And I think it is wrong to try to influence the population’s decisions by saying they can or can’t go out because they aren’t vaccinated, if only because everyone is different. Some people have a medical exemption from vaccination.” Golikova added that around 70 million people had received flu jabs without being required to do so by law.
Last week, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that 24 million Russians had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, accounting for around one in six of the country’s 146-million-strong population. A study by Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse published in March ranked Russia last in a list of eight selected countries for desire to get vaccinated, with only around 30% of survey respondents saying they wanted to receive the jab.
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