Russian x-risks newsletter winter 2020-2021: free vaccines for foreigners, bird flu outbreak, one more nuclear near-miss in the past and one now, new AGI institute.

by avturchin1 min read1st Mar 20212 comments

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I got my covid vaccination in December and it easily available in Moscow, especially in malls, where only an ID is required for a jab. Thus, foreigners can be vaccinated, and a Brazilian husband of one Russian girl used this opportunity. However, it is not Pfizer, but the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. Also, Russian regions are getting much less vaccination, despite Sputnik's export to other countries. Anyway, I had mild side effects like high temperature a day after each of two jabs. Only 4 millions people got at least one shot at the end of February in Russia (for 140 mln population). 

Actual morality from covid in Russia could be much higher than it was reported, according to data from additional mortality. Russia could be even a world leader by deaths per million and total deaths. 

Meanwhile, bird flu has infected several workers on a farm in Southern Russia, which is the first time for this strain and may be connected with its mutation. There are also reports of wild birds’ die-off in this region.

“Russia's Sberbank will soon open the first non-profit academic institute in Russia where artificial intelligence will be studied, said bank CEO Herman Gref at the AI Journey conference on Thursday… A German scientist based in Switzerland, one of the world's most famous specialists in the field of artificial intelligence, Jürgen Schmidhuber, was invited to become an Honorary Director of Science of the Institute.” 

Putin promised serious resources for AI development.

A piece of hardware was stolen from the Russian Doomsday Plane during its renovation, and this is raising questions about nuclear security. 

A false alarm was issued on Ramstein military base in Germany after a test launch of 4 Russian ballistic missiles.

Almost 40 years ago, in 1983, the Soviet Union was at trigger-happy state because of NATO drills. Planes were prepared for a preemptive strike using nukes. 

Putin spoke about the risks of the end of civilization, because of a global conflict, but nobody cares because the conflict about A. Navalny’s arrest was the main news of the day. 

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Is it basically that you can easily get the vaccine if you are in Moskau but not elsewhere in Russia or is the problem about the populations trust in the case?

Both answers are correct: manufacturing is slow and a lot of people are against vaccination. More about in this article in Russian. 

Population trust is low and many people deny vaccination. Only around 5 per cent of people in Moscow has been vaccinated, despite easy availability of vaccine for everybody in Moscow.  Also, there is a typical situation in Russia from Soviet times when Moscow is oversupplied and regions are undersupplied.  Ural region has run out of vaccine. 

In my circle, 80 per cent of people had covid, but only a few friends vaccinated (around 5-10 per cent based on the share of people who visited my last year wedding and later vaccinated). There are two explanation according to them: either they already had covid and has antibodies and don't see the reason to take risks of vaccination, or "they are too old" and afraid of side effects. Interestingly, Russian vaccine was initially approved only for people below 60, Also, unfortunately, Putin didn't take the shot and this didn't help the belief in vaccine.

Two more Russian vaccines are in the late stages of approval, and some people wait for them as they are based on more conventional technology: not viral vectors, but dead coronavirus.