Moscow Tightens the Clamp on Russia’s Millions of Covid-19 Vaccine Holdouts

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MOSCOW—Russia is adopting increasingly coercive measures to convince Russians to be vaccinated, as authorities try to reboot a flailing vaccination campaign and race to beat back a surge in Covid-19 cases caused by the more infectious Delta variant.

Local authorities in some areas of Russia have made vaccination compulsory for service-sector employees, meaning that millions of workers, ranging from hairdressers to bank tellers, face the threat of unpaid leave if they don’t get inoculated.

Restaurants and shops could be closed for months if they don’t have 60% vaccinated staff by mid-July. And as of late June, only the inoculated, those who have recovered in the past six months or who have a negative test can enter Moscow restaurants and coffee shops.

Russians can take any one of four homegrown vaccines for free. The country doesn’t offer any of the Western shots.

The push has sparked backlash in the face of widespread vaccine skepticism in Russia and has led to a proliferation of fake inoculation certificates online, according to authorities. It comes as Covid-19 cases have surged to over 20,000 a day; deaths have hit a record. Over 90% of new cases involve the Delta variant. Authorities are also advising those vaccinated more than six months ago to get a booster shot.