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Russia Becomes First Country To Approve A COVID-19 Vaccine

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UPDATE: Tuesday August 11, 2.38pm: Russia has revealed that 20 countries already pre-ordered a billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine ahead of mass production in September.


President Vladimir Putin revealed on Tuesday August 11 that Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move hailed by Moscow as evidence of its scientific prowess.

The development paves the way for the mass inoculation of the Russian population, even as the final stage of clinical trials to test safety and efficacy continue.   

The speed at which Russia is moving to roll out its vaccine highlights its determination to win the global race for an effective product, but has stirred concerns that it may be putting national prestige before sound science and safety.

A vaccine being drawn into a syringe for use. Source: File

Speaking at a government meeting on state television, Putin said the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, was safe and that it had even been administered to one of his daughters.

“I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks,” said Putin.

The vaccine is based on adenovirus and contains dead COVID-19 particles which cannot multiply and are therefore safe, said Alexander Gintzburg, head of the center.

“However, it can provoke an immune response such as high temperature to the introduction of foreign substances”, he added.

Putin hoped the country would soon start mass producing the vaccine.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Source: Twitter

Its approval by the health ministry foreshadows the start of a larger trial involving thousands of participants, commonly known as a Phase III trial.

Such trials, which require a certain rate of participants catching the virus to observe the vaccine’s effect, are normally considered essential precursors for a vaccine to receive regulatory approval.

Regulators around the world have insisted that the rush to develop COVID-19 vaccines will not compromise safety. But recent surveys show growing public distrust in governments’ efforts to rapidly produce such a vaccine.

Russian health workers treating COVID-19 patients will be offered the chance of volunteering to be vaccinated soon after the vaccine’s approval, a source told Reuters last month.

More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed around the world to try to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data.


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