Watching as Russia’s drive to vaccinate its citizens against coronavirus stumbled earlier this year, Sergei had a hunch that authorities would eventually make inoculations mandatory. But the 30-something in the southern Krasnodar region had no plans of getting a jab.
So he found a dealer online hawking fake vaccine certificates, sent his personal details over encrypted messenger Telegram and transferred 15,000 rubles ($200).
Three weeks later, Sergei logged onto Russia’s government services portal to find a certificate showing he had received both doses of the country’s homegrown Sputnik V vaccine – without ever having been jabbed.
Many Russians are wary of the jab, with some 60% saying they do not plan to be inoculated, according to independent polling.
Sergei said he believes the jab has side effects, and fears the vaccine is experimental. “I don’t want to die because of what the government wants,” Sergei said in an exchange on Telegram, showing AFP a redacted screenshot of his personal government portal showing his vaccine certificate.
“I’m getting asked to vaccinate whole companies,” one seller boasted in an exchange on Telegram. At the low end of the black market, Russians can get a paper booklet certifying they were vaccinated for 2,000 rubles ($28, 23 euros). At the top end, for 30,000 rubles ($400, 350 euros) middlemen say they can get a medical worker to pour out vaccine doses and upload falsified medical records to the government portal.