The COVID-19 virus recently turned two years old. Soon it will be one year since the beginning of mass vaccination of Russians. At the time of writing, a total of 58.7 million people in Russia have been vaccinated with the two components, with about 432,600 in the Vladimir region.
The coronavirus, which could have turned into a mild cold with the vaccine, continues to take lives. For example, there were 21 deaths in the 33rd region on November 21. On the contrary, restrictions designed to encourage people to get vaccinated have discouraged many from doing so. Some prefer to buy a certificate of immunization against coronavirus.
Kirill (name changed at the request of the hero) lives in Vladimir. He has his own business, and by local standards he is considered quite a wealthy man. When he realized that he could not go abroad, go to the stadium or go to a cafe without a QR code, he thought about how to get a certificate of vaccination.
“I didn’t doubt for a second that I wouldn’t get vaccinated. I basically don’t trust our state, the crumbling medicine. I knew right away that if they pressured me about vaccinations, I would find a way to get a certificate without the shot,” said our interviewee.
Kirill did not pay a penny for his certificate. He found a medical professional he knew who took care of all the paperwork. He didn’t even have to go to the clinic and watch his vaccine dose being poured down the sink. And that is exactly what the administrator of a clinic in Kaliningrad did – she sold the certificates and sent the unused ampoules to the sewer, which she admitted to during an interrogation published by the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
There is no official information about such cases in Vladimir. The Ministry of Internal Affairs does not share details even in response to a journalist’s request for ProVladimir, but reports statistics:
“By November 10, 2021 five criminal cases were opened in the Vladimir region over facts related to illegal sales of vaccination and PCR test documents.”
The market for fake certificates in Russia is the same age as the coronavirus vaccination itself. At first, they were just paper forgeries with references to non-existent doctors and dubious stamps. On July 8 in Ufa, a 20-year-old suspect was detained for making and selling a fake certificate for four thousand rubles.
As soon as all those who had been previously vaccinated and overdrawn began to receive QR codes on the portal of public services, there was no point in a paper version. Fraudsters began to offer fake vaccination with entry in the official databases.
“I was just curious how it worked, so I bought it,” says Anton from Vladimir (name changed by the hero’s request).
The man had no plans to travel anywhere in the near future; at the time he bought the certificate, the Russian vaccine was not even quoted in Turkey. He did not go to a cafe, nothing was demanded at work. Simple curiosity cost Anton 14 thousand rubles.
It all worked out. Anton’s personal account on Gosuslugi first showed the data on the first stage of vaccination he underwent. He even received a link to the self-monitoring diary, which he filled out for three weeks. And then information about the second dose of Sputnik V and a QR-code appeared on the portal.
According to his words, Anton was helped to get the certificate by an acquaintance who had fixed the documents for his whole family. And then this family was infected with coronavirus, contributing to the official statistics of vaccinated residents of the Vladimir region. Of course, there are COVID-19 infected among the truly vaccinated as well. Vaccination is not 100% protection. But recent data show the effectiveness of Sputnik against severe course of the disease, hospitalization and death.
Vaccinated people can also end up in the hospital. But as of today, the official position of the Gamaleya Institute, which issued Sputnik V, is as follows: about 80% of citizens who claim to have been vaccinated, but were severely ill with coronavirus, have bought a certificate of vaccination.
Konstantin Baranov, director of the Vladimir Regional Health Department, said the same at the briefings. We should add that at the time of writing this material Baranov was appointed Acting Deputy Governor for Social Policy of the Vladimir region.
“When a patient is admitted to the hospital in a serious condition, but the person has been vaccinated, and enough time has passed since the vaccination – not a week or two, but several months enough for immunity to appear – this is an occasion to run the number of the certificate through the database. Most often such certificate turns out to be forged,” Konstantin Baranov told ProVladimir in a telephone conversation.
He did not specify which database Baranov had in mind. By the way, it is known that shady Internet resources put up for sale the data of citizens who bought fake vaccination certificates and PCR tests, many federal media outlets wrote about it in November.
Later, however, some experts doubted the existence of such a database. But even if it does exist, the data on vaccine leaking medical workers are likely to be missing there. Therefore, only those who ordered their certificate online will be able to be de-anonymized.
Alas, it is easy to get this service online – fraudsters create groups and channels in social networks and messengers for such purposes.
One of the “online helpers” offers the following options: a QR code after two shots of Sputnik V along with a paper certificate in 21 days after application or data on vaccination by Sputnik Lite, which will appear on Gosuslugi within two days. The service costs 4.5 thousand rubles.
The offer is worded in such a way that one might think that a certain “nurse” is advertising a service for vaccinations, but not for the sale of certificates. The subsequent correspondence puts everything in its place. She reluctantly, but still answers clarifying questions. It turned out that there is no need to come to the vaccination center for a paper certificate, it will be sent by courier, but it is necessary to pay in advance in the amount of 50%. The place of vaccination can write any place.
The price list of fraudsters contains PCR tests (positive and negative), a certificate of antibodies, medical clearance certificates, and certificates of vaccination by foreign companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca. The latter cost seven thousand rubles.
Such channels in social networks are closed and blocked, and then reappear.
“Measures to suppress the facts and identify persons offering services to obtain medical certificates, certificates and other documents bypassing official procedures are carried out by internal affairs officers on a regular basis, including monitoring of social networks and messengers,” the Interior Ministry said in a reply to ProVladimir’s request.
Buyers of certificates not only risk money. In order to obtain a document, they need to tell someone their full name, date of birth, passport data, numbers of SNILS and telephone, as well as the address of registration. And if somewhere there is a database of fake vaccination certificate holders, it is easier for the holders of such channels to gather information.
Personal data can later be used for blackmail. Forging and selling a document (part 1 of article 327 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) can be punished with up to two years in prison. And purchase (paragraph 3 of the same article) can be punished with up to one year in prison.
So far, the authorities are more lenient towards certificate buyers than sellers. Cases are filed only against the sellers. However, those who bought a vaccination certificate and then came to their senses and decided to get vaccinated may have problems. The amnesty, which, for example, was announced by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, is not yet planned to be introduced in Russia.
It is impossible to declare amnesty for people who have bought certificates of vaccination against coronavirus, according to the State Duma. This would bring doctors to justice, sparing the owners of false documents.
Meanwhile, the current Vice-Governor for Social Policy Konstantin Baranov believes that there should be such an amnesty. The official said that he knows of cases when people, being in hospital in a serious condition, admitted that their certificates had been bought. According to him, these citizens do not face any responsibility, because “human life is above all, and all these papers are nonsense.
Konstantin Baranov told our editorial board that a similar situation happened to a doctor working in one of Vladimir’s medical centers. The medical worker’s condition deteriorated up to intensive care, then he admitted that he did not vaccinate against COVID-19, but bought a certificate from an acquaintance in the Moscow region.
Indeed, medical professionals in the market for fake certificates do not only act as sellers. In the summer, a poll commissioned by the publication Takie Delo showed that a third of Russian doctors – 34 percent – were not ready to vaccinate against the coronavirus, despite the worsening situation with the spread of the infection.
Some medical workers, including those from Vladimir, not only do not want to be vaccinated themselves, but also dissuade their patients from doing so.
“They are the enemies who shoot in the back,” Konstantin Baranov said of such people.
Vladimir cab driver Artem (name changed) is categorically against vaccination. He cites the classic arguments of anti-vaxxers: the vaccine has not been studied enough, the virus has not been isolated, and so on. And the doctors only argue for him in this opinion. Such people like to refer to the opinion of bloggers or conventional authorities like anti-vaccination professor Alexander Redko.
And half the trouble, if it was a private opinion of one person. But, according to the cab driver, all the doctors he drove told him that they do not trust the vaccine and do not recommend vaccination. But that’s just a secret. The aggregator does not yet force drivers to be vaccinated, but if it happens, Artem knows what to do. He listened to so many doctors for nothing…
The incompetence of some doctors is only one of the reasons that led to the failure of the vaccination campaign in Russia. Then there is the total lack of trust in the government and the health care system, as well as the mystical thinking that gives rise to conspiracy theories. All this obscurantism is nurtured on the fertile ground of an almost complete lack of official, detailed information about how often and how severely vaccinated people become ill.
At one of the briefings on the epidemic situation in the Vladimir region, deputy director of the Department of Health, Artem Osipov (now acting head of the Regional Health Department) said that in the near future a single information resource on vaccination will be launched on the department’s website. Its task is “for citizens to have a single source of up-to-date information about how and where vaccination centers work, in which villages and villages field teams are sent.
But in order for the Russian vaccine to gain credibility, we need to fill the knowledge gap about it. We would like to see on this official portal statistics on the number of cases among those vaccinated, on the number and type of allergic reactions to vaccination, on complications.
ProVladimir reminds us that vaccination is currently the most effective means of preventing coronavirus. Fewer people die in countries with a high number of vaccinated people. According to an independent study by scientists, those infected with the delta strain are five times less likely to be hospitalized if vaccinated with Sputnik V. After all, President Vladimir Putin revaccinated to set an example for Russians.