Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has become the first in the world to formally approve a new COVID-19 vaccine, despite a lack of data to back up his claims that the drug is safe to administer to humans.
President Putin announced the development during a meeting with his government ministers Tuesday that was carried live on state television.
“I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity,” Putin said of the new vaccine developed by Moscows Gamaleya Institute. He said the vaccine had undergone “all the necessary checks” to ensure its safety, adding that his own daughter has been inoculated in an early testing phase. The president said his daughter ran a slight fever on the first day, but her temperature dropped to normal the following day.
Production of the new Russian vaccine — which has been dubbed Sputnik V, in honor of the worlds first man-made satellite launched by the then-Soviet Union in 1957 — will begin next month, with mass vaccinations starting as early as October. Russian authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to be inoculated. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that the vaccination of doctors could start as early as this month.
The new vaccine is one of more than 100 possible vaccines being developed in a race by governments and biomedical firms to blunt a pandemic that has now sickened more than 20 million people and caused more than 736,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Universitys coronavirus tracker.
The Russian vaccine is not among the handful that reached the third and final phase of testing in human trials, which usually involve thousands of people and lasts for months, according to the World Health Organization. Scientists within Russia and abroad have questioned the move to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials are complete.
Critics say this could prove harmful to patients, and either lead to a false sense of security or undermine trust in vaccinations.
And Russia has also been accused by the United States, Britain and Canada of using hackers to steal vaccine research from labs in their countries.
Putins announcement comes as Chinese-based biotech company Sinovac has launched a late-stage human trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia. The vaccine, dubbed CoronaVac, will be administered to as many as 1,620 volunteers to test its safety and effectiveness. Indonesia is the second nation where Sinovac has launched a late-stage trial.