Russians headed to polling stations across the country this past weekend to vote in a totally new lower house of parliament.  Despite very little notice in the West COVID-19 is a driving factor in the elections and for a good reason.  The Delta variant is hitting Russia very hard. 

For much of 2020, Russia claimed they had a good handle on the global pandemic and while they saw surges in cases, they reported better than average case fatality rates (CFR) of 1.6% for most of the year.  Further, they claimed to have developed a vaccine, Sputnik V, that provided good protection against SARS-CoV-2 infections.  Mass distribution began in Dec 2020 near the same time as in the US.  Things worked out pretty well in early 2021 as cases and deaths dropped, but as the Delta variant began to spread in May 2021 a third and most deadly wave hit Russia. 

What went wrong?  Assuming that the COVID data from Russia is of average quality (big assumption), it seems that the Sputnik V vaccine is virtually useless against the Delta variant despite a claimed efficacy of 80% against hospitalization.  CFR more than doubled over the last 6 months to 3.8% – one of the worst in the world even among countries that were totally exposed and unvaccinated.  This is 10X worse than Japan’s experience with DeltaCOVID stats from Russia are highly suspect, so the real toll could be 28% higher vs. 20% higher for the USA.  COVID-19 could be inflicting tremendous pain on Russians.  Moreover, in recent weeks, cases rose again after falling for nearly 3 months as schools reopened in September in Russia with no masks or social distancing. 

Russia’s death/day/1M capita is near 6 – nearly the same as the USA.  Russia’s problem may be a rushed and ineffective vaccine.  What is the USA’s excuse for such a high death count and poor performance when we have some of the best vaccines in the world?  Superior western science has given Americans a solution that demagoguery is rejecting.  Is Russia’s state-managed science worse than America’s state-mangled science?