Russian citizens living in Estonia can get vaccinated with the Sputnik vaccine at the Leningrad Oblast, but bureaucracy and complicated border crossings are making it difficult.
Noone really knows how many people in Narva would like to get vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik vaccine, which has now gone under review at the European Medicines Agency. For example, while creating vaccination lists for frontline workers, vaccine refusers were not asked for their preference with a portion of them likely choosing instead the Sputnik vaccine, if it were available to them.
A reason for this is certainly the positive media coverage coming from Estonia's eastern neighbor, but there are other nuances. Even the fact that the widely used AstraZeneca vaccine has a chimpanzee adenovirus with Sputnik being a human adenovirus.
There are certainly many Russian citizens, making up a third of Narva's populace, among those clamoring for Sputnik. And as a reaction to Narva residents' applications for the vaccine, Leningrad governor Aleksandr Drozdenko called for more vaccines to be brought to the Kingissepa region near the Estonian border in order to have enough for Russians living in the Estonian border town.
According to Drozdenko, vaccinations should not be much of an issue as people just need to register online and cross the border on the respective day.
In actuality, those wishing to be vaccinated with the Russian vaccine are hindered by two obstacles - the border itself and general bureaucracy.
Registering for vaccinations goes through the Russian state services portal. To register, a person must have valid Russian health insurance, which requires pension insurance to formalize. All of this is doable in principle, but it would also require an internal passport, which a majority of Russians living elsewhere lack.
The second issue is the border. Russia has significantly decreased border crossings for the pandemic and while a citizen of Russia is allowed in, they are only allowed out once. This makes going for their second vaccine jab difficult, because the border guards might not allow the person access over the border.
At the same time, it is known that the strict laws of Russia are often quite flexible and compensated with selective enforcement. Practice shows that while leaving Russia at this time depends largely on the weight of the justification, but also on how welcoming the border guards are.
The Russian "Sputnik" vaccine is registered in some 40 countries with Slovakia and Hungary the only EU countries to approve the vaccine. The European Medicines Agency has begun reviewing the vaccine.
A response to the slow roll-out of vaccines in the EU, President Kersti Kaljulaid said on Thursday that Estonia could use the Sputnik vaccine, pending European Union approval and sufficient supply of the vaccine. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has previously stated that there is no reason not to consider buying the Russian-made vaccine if Europe gives it a green light.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste