Russians’ distrust of authorities and skepticism of doctors — going back to Soviet times — helps explain the country’s vaccine reticence. Others blame anti-vaccine activists and rampant disinformation on social media.

 A routine medical checkup in mid-September nearly cost Alexander Ivanov his life. The clinic was packed with people, almost no one wearing masks, the Washington Post reports.

“Or distancing,” he said — a common sight in Russian public spaces and on transport. “I even told some of the people that they should be wearing masks, but people didn’t care.”

Three days later he fell ill with the coronavirus and wound up in intensive care in Yekaterinburg, in Russia’s Urals region. The 47-year-old resident — who was not vaccinated — watched other patients dying, thinking he was next.

Russia’s catastrophic “fourth wave” is a cautionary tale for a failing vaccination campaign, showing the difficulties in correcting course after the government’s confused, on-off messaging about covid-19.

Russia’s pandemic measures began with a strict lockdown in early 2020 and dropped before a crucial July 2020 vote on constitutional changes. This summer, Moscow brought in QR codes to prove vaccine status to enter bars, restaurants and cafes, but the unpopular measure was abandoned after a few weeks.

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