Russian football fans treated to pre-game vaccine at St Petersburg stadium

MOSCOW, March 13 (Reuters) - Football fans attending the Russian Premier League clash between Zenit and Akhmat Grozny in St Petersburg on Saturday were offered an unusual pre-game treat - a vaccine against COVID-19.

Upon arrival at the Gazprom Arena, people could decide whether or not to receive the free shot, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. At least 20 fans were vaccinated before the game, according to a Reuters reporter. The service was available for two hours before and after the game, so that number could rise.

Several thousand people attended the match in the 68,000-seat stadium. Coronavirus restrictions prevent stadiums operating at full capacity.

Take-up of the vaccine in Russia has been slower than in other countries, with polls showing Russians are sceptical of the domestically produced inoculation. Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova last week said 5 million people had received a first shot, out of a population of 144 million.

“Lately I’ve read that the vaccine is in short supply and if you make an appointment, then it just gets postponed,” said Alexei Afanasiev, who said a friend persuaded him to receive the shot on Saturday. “Let’s mix business with pleasure.”

Zenit, the home team, said this week the club would provide spectators with personal protective equipment and that stadium concourses and entry points would be disinfected the day before the match.

It said the vaccination programme at the stadium would continue until the end of the football season.

Reporting by Dmitry Vasilyev; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Edmund Blair