Dozens of Moscow residents queued on Monday to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at the GUM department store, opposite the Kremlin on Red Square, where the shot is given on a first-come, first-served basis, Reuters reported.
Surrounded by Christmas decorations, with the shop fronts of Chanel and Rolex nearby, Muscovites of all ages waited for their first shot of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
Russia, with the world’s fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases, started large-scale vaccinations last month, initially for people in key professions, including medical workers and teachers. On Monday it opened the program to all.
Moscow’s health department announced it would be opening several mobile vaccination clinics around the city, including in the GUM store. Other locations include the busy DEPO food court and an opera theater.
Standing in line for her first shot, Christmas music playing in the background, Svetlana Polyakova said she was keen to get vaccinated to protect her 83-year-old mother.
Polyakova said she found it difficult to sign up for the vaccination using the city’s online portal as demand was high. So when her employer told her that it was being made available in the nearby mall, she headed to GUM.
“It’s a celebratory atmosphere, it’s nice,” she said.
Though the vaccine has been widely available in Moscow since December, the picture outside the capital is different. Most regions have reported receiving fewer than 5,000 doses so far.
At the GUM mall around mid-morning, just a few hours after the mobile clinic opened, there were around two dozen people in the queue, which snaked along a balcony overlooking luxury sportswear shops and jewellery stores. Within the hour, the queue grew to more than 50 people and wait times grew longer.
The mobile clinic’s head doctor Natalya Kuzenkova organized pre-vaccination consultations, with the process taking around 8-10 minutes per person.
In the queue, Vyacheslav Vasiliyev, 84, said he was registered for a vaccination in his local clinic but came to the GUM mall in order to be inoculated sooner.
“I am someone who makes great use of all the cultural opportunities available in Moscow,” he said. “I want to be in the theater, the opera, the library, the bookshop…”
Authorities have said they plan to inoculate 60% of the population of 144 million this year. The country has two registered vaccines and is expected to approve a third in the next few days.