Russia has launched a booster vaccine for Covid-19 on Thursday aimed at enhancing protection for people who have been immunized for more than six months with its domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine. This comes as the country is faced with a new wave of infections and a rising death toll.

According to Reuters, health clinics in Moscow have commenced offering booster shots making the country the first to begin re-vaccination. 

In his blog, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has urged city residents to get their booster shots after saying he had just received his. “I'm pleading with you not to miss a chance to get additional protection from the virus, which is particularly important amid the spread of a more aggressive delta variant.”

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that the ministry has also issued guidelines that allow those who contracted COVID-19 to get vaccinated six months after they recovered. The booster shots will be rolled out until at least 60% of the population has gained immunity against COVID-19 and once this number is reached, booster shots will be administered once a year.

The more contagious Delta variant makes for the bulk of Moscow’s new infections as well as other regions. Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported over 20,000 new COVID-19 infections daily last week, which is more than double the average tallied in early June. On Thursday, 23,543 new cases were listed with 672 deaths.

Despite having four registered locally produced COVID-19 vaccines, Russia has inoculated just 16% of its 146 million population since January, noting this was due to widespread distrust. Russian officials also blamed the rise in cases on its citizens’ lax attitude toward practicing health protocols and vaccine hesitancy even though Russia was among the first countries to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine.

A spike in vaccinations was seen over the recent weeks after authorities in many regions made vaccination mandatory for  government employees as well as in certain sectors, such as retail, health care, education and restaurants.

As the Delta variant sweeps through the country with a new wave of contagion, authorities in some regions have started imposing travel restrictions. The southern Krasnodar region now requires incoming hotel and resort clients to produce a certificate of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or a document showing they had been previously sick with the virus.

Starting Aug. 1, only those with proof of vaccination or a document showing recovery from COVID-19 will be allowed into hotels and resorts. The nation’s tourist industry is expected to suffer a wave of tour cancellations with the new stringent guidelines.

vaccine-6165772_960_720 Representation Image mRNA Covid Vaccine Vial spencerbdavis1/ Pixabay