Moscow, Jul 21 (AP) A total of 33.6 million Russians, or 23% of the country's population, have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.

That's according to Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who says some 22.6 million, or 15%, have been fully vaccinated among the population of 146 million.

“Recently, the speed of vaccination has almost doubled,” Golikova says. On Wednesday, the coronavirus task force reported 23,704 new infections and 783 confirmed deaths.

The Russian authorities have struggled to ramp up the country's low vaccine uptake as coronavirus infections surged in recent weeks. Russia's daily number of cases more than doubled, going from about 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 in mid-July.

Faced with the soaring infections and deaths, officials in more than 30 Russian regions made vaccinations mandatory for certain groups, such as those employed in health care, education, public transportation or the services sector.

President Vladimir Putin, who said last month that he doesn't support mandating the shots, urged officials on Wednesday to ramp up the immunisation drive by convincing people that vaccinations are necessary.

“It shouldn't be imposed (on people), but you need to explain,” Putin said.

Russia's state coronavirus task force has reported more than 6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 150,705 confirmed deaths in the pandemic. However, reports by Russia's state statistical service Rosstat suggests a tally much higher. (AP)

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