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 now being given on a first-come first-served basis, reports Reuters.
Surrounded by Christmas decorations, outside the Chanel and Rolex shops, Muscovites of all ages waited for their first shot of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
Russia has the world’s fourth highest number of Covid-19 cases.
Moscow started large-scale vaccinations last month, initially for people in key professions, including medical workers and teachers. On Monday it opened the programme 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 theatre.
Standing in line for her first shot, 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 with only a short wait in the nearby mall, she headed straight to GUM.
“It’s a celebratory atmosphere, it’s nice,” she said.
At the mall around mid-morning, there were around 25 people in the queue, but around lunchtime the queue grew to more than 50 people and waiting times increased.
The mobile clinic’s head doctor Natalya Kuzenkova gave pre-vaccination consultations, with the process taking up to 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 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 theatre, the opera, the library, the bookshop.”
Authorities have said they plan to inoculate 60% of the Russian population of 144 million this year. The country has two registered vaccines and is expected to approve a third in the next few days.
Though the vaccine has been available in Moscow since December, the picture outside the capital is different. Most regions have reported receiving fewer than 5,000 doses each so far.