Vaccine math Meduza fact checks Putin and Mishustin’s statements about Russia’s coronavirus vaccination numbers

A nurse invites passersby to get vaccinated against the coronavirus with Sputnik V at a mobile vaccination station in Novosibirsk on May 4, 2021Kirill Kukhmar / TASS

On Monday, May 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that 21.5 million Russians had been vaccinated against COVID-19. Two days later, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that more than 24 million people in Russia had received their coronavirus jab. Meduza fact checked these official statements to see if these vaccination figures are even possible. Long story short, the numbers don’t add up.

What did Putin and Mishustin say?

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, speaking on May 12:

“At the end of last year, voluntary free mass vaccination began across the country. More than 24 million people have already gone through various stages of vaccination.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking on May 10:

“21.5 million people already received vaccines. The results are very good across the country.”

Were 2.5 million people vaccinated in the last two days?

The problem here isn’t that this is extremely unlikely. The problem is the math.

By all appearances, both Putin and Mishustin simply added up the number of people who have received their first vaccine dose with the number of people who have had both shots. But the former already includes the latter.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova later explained that 24 million is the number of doses administered — not the number of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“More than 24 million vaccine doses have been used. We have over 14 million [people vaccinated] with the first component and nearly 10 million [have received] two [doses].”

The aggregator, which collects official data on the number of vaccinations, shows similar figures.

That said, this doesn’t explain the apparent a sharp increase in the number of vaccinations over the past two days (if we take the totals Putin and Mishustin cited at face value).

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attributed the discrepancy to the sheer size of Russia, saying that it’s “impossible” to get nationwide statistics online that are accurate down to the last person. He also urged people to take into account that the number of vaccinated individuals is increasing. 

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Text by Alexander Baklanov and Dmitry Kartsev

Translated by Eilish Hart


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