The number of coronavirus cases is rising faster during the third wave in Russia than in winter. Russia reports 20,000 cases a day. Seemingly, we are well equipped against this infectious foe by a Covid-19 vaccine. Yet few of us are willing to get protected. We have asked the University staff to speak about how they got vaccinated or, in some cases, suffered from Covid-19 to urge those who have not yet got vaccinated against Covid-19 to make the right decision.

‘To protect yourself and your nearest and dearest’

Apollinariia Avrutina, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Turkish Studies and Russia–Turkey Relations at St Petersburg University:

‘My family and I got vaccinated in January. Yet in June we got sick with the Covid Indian variant. By that time, we had quite a high level of antibodies, which was enough to protect us from the Wuhan variant, yet we had to develop more antibodies to protect ourselves from the Indian variant. Obviously, not knowing the virus through getting vaccinated could lead to death.

Several days ago, my friend died from COVID-19. He was Consul General of Turkey in St Petersburg. His name was Ferhan Yorulmaz. I had urged him to get vaccinated. Yet we are always very short of time. When he was admitted to the hospital, we texted each other. He wrote: ‘If I had known it would have happened, I would definitely had got vaccinated’. Shortly after, I did not hear from him anymore...  

I urge everyone to get vaccinated. As quickly, as possible. To protect yourself and your nearest and dearest.’

‘I urge those who are sceptical about the vaccine to stop hesitating’

Olga Dergunova, Deputy President and Chairman of VTB Bank Management Board, Director of the Graduate School of Management at St Petersburg University:

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‘Being young and healthy does not guarantee you are protected, unfortunately. Coronavirus is wilful. I got infected last August and I definitely don’t want to get infected once more. In June, I got the first jab. So, I am trying to reduce my contacts with people. In July, I am expected to have the second jab.

We must be well aware that getting vaccinated is more about our social responsibility rather than personal responsibility. Getting vaccinated means that your chances to have mild symptoms and signs end up being higher. Moreover, we save those who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons. Only getting vaccinated will defeat Covid-19, which prevents our life from being back to normal. We must limit our contacts. Seemingly, our life will never be back to pre-pandemic normal.

Many of us have relatives, friends, or colleagues who had severe symptoms. The hospitals are overwhelmed and doctors are completely overwhelmed with the avalanche of work. I urge those who are sceptical about the vaccine to stop hesitating. Having two jabs is much easier than getting infected. We do want to plan out life in offline mode, come to the University, meet students and staff, visit exhibitions and go to concerts. Making it come true is in our hands.’

‘We all need to get vaccinated’

Alexey Ekaykin, a polar explorer, glaciologist, Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Geography and Landscape Planning at St Petersburg University, Leading Research Associate at the Laboratory for Climatic and Environmental Changes at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute:

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‘I was among the first to be vaccinated shortly after the vaccine became available to the public. I got the second jab on 3 February. I felt well. I only had a slight temperature after the second jab.

I urge everyone to get vaccinated! Except for those who cannot get vaccinated for serious medical reasons. I am neither a virologist nor an expert in molecular biology. Yet there is evidence that Sputnik is a reliable and safe vaccine, which is reflected in the article that has been recently published in Nature.

Our fear of having rather mythical side effects after getting vaccinated is largely irrational. It is more like being afraid of travelling by plane, yet feeling quite comfortable when driving a car. By the way, travelling by plane is much safer. Theoretically, there can be side effects. Any vaccine, not only a vaccine against COVID-19, can have side effects. Yet the chances to have complications other than high temperature after getting vaccinated are small in comparison with having complications after getting infected with COVID-19.

If we want to come back to normal life, travel without restrictions, stop wearing suffocating masks and living in fear that our older relatives can get infected, we all need to get vaccinated’.

‘Everyone who has got vaccinated makes a special contribution’

Victor Zakharov, Head of the Intelligent Logistics Centre at St Petersburg University and co-author of the new mathematical modelling approach in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic:

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‘The aim of vaccination against Covid-19 is to stimulate our body to produce antibodies to recognise the pathogen and protect us against the virus. The more people have antibodies, the lower chances of becoming infected by Covid are. Each person who has got vaccinated makes their own contribution into our struggle against the disease. Being able to unite people during World War Two resulted in our victory. People took arms and went to the front to protect our motherland. Today, our main weapon is the vaccine. Failing to unite people and urge them to defeat the virus means the virus is going to spread and we are going to have the fourth or even more waves.’

‘Vaccines are the shield of the humankind in our struggle against diseases’

Alexey Potekhin, Professor in the Department of Microbiology at St Petersburg University:

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‘The invention of vaccines has improved our life as radically as the Prometheus's fire. Vaccination means we live longer. Why has the number of people worldwide in the 21st century reached 7 billion? Largely, due to being able to get vaccinated as infectious diseases no longer kill us. Smallpox has disappeared. Measles, rubella, and mumps are almost gone. Poliomyelitis does not happen in the developed countries. Deadly yellow fever is not so terrible. Even Hepatitis B can be completely prevented by vaccination. Vaccines are the shield of the humankind in our struggle against the disease.’

‘Those who are engaged in “field” works have never been sceptical about vaccination’

Kirill Chistiakov, Director of the Institute of Earth Sciences at St Petersburg University and Vice-President of the Russian Geographical Society:

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‘In my opinion, getting vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 is compulsory for everyone, except those who cannot have vaccine for medical reasons. For those who are engaged in Earth sciences and “field” work, i.e. geographers, geologists, ecologists, soil scientists and others, the risk of being infected by various diseases during expeditions have always been higher. Therefore, we have never been sceptical about vaccination. My colleagues and I regularly got vaccinated against encephalitis when we had to work in taiga or against plague when we had to work in Asia and there were naturally occurring plague incidents. Having to work in the tropical and equatorial landscapes means you have to get vaccinated against a certain number of diseases. For me, getting vaccinated against the coronavirus infection is like having to get vaccinated against any other diseases, especially, if you think about lessening the risk of getting infected by your colleagues, students, or others, not only about your own health and wellbeing. Such thoughts must always accompany those who work for the University.

My family and I got vaccinated in March and April. After the first jab, I had some discomfort as my arm where the vaccine was administered was swollen. I had these symptoms for several days. Yet they were quite ordinary symptoms mentioned in the leaflet that I had been given after getting vaccinated in the hospital. After the second jab, I felt quite well and had no symptoms. My relatives had temperature for a short period of time. Nothing to worry about. Now I can plan what I want to do more freely. For example, business trips. I had to have the PCR test result that was rather costly. During two months, I had to contact people who had the symptoms of Covid. Yet I did not get infected. So, from my experience, I strongly recommend everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.’