Russia has announced the world’s first vaccine for Covid-19 amid concerns it may not have fully tested its product.
Vladimir Putin announced regulatory approval for a test vaccine produced by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute after shortened trials. According to him, “testing has demonstrated that the product is safe, works effectively and forms long-term immunity”.
“One of my daughters did the inoculation herself,” he said before a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning. “After the first injection, her temperature went up to 38. By the next day it was just a little over 37″.
According to deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova, Russia plans to begin inoculating medical staff in August. Mass vaccination will start early next year. Health minister Mikhail Murashko said a course of two shots would provide immunity for up to two years.
Russia has embraced the race to approve the world’s first vaccine. Kirill Dmitriev, head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, likened the search to the Soviet launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957.
Moscow announced the new coronavirus vaccine would be codenamed Sputnik V, in reference to that success.
Pharmaceutical Companies in Russia
On Monday, an association representing Russian pharmaceutical companies wrote to the health ministry. This they did to warn against the lack of testing. They noted that so far the vaccine had only been tested on “less than a hundred people” when final, phase-3 trials usually require thousands of volunteers.
Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, described the decision as “reckless and foolish”. Any problem with the Russian vaccine would have “disastrous” consequences, he added. This is both through its negative effects on health and further set back of the acceptance of vaccines in the population.”
Mikhail Favorov, an epidemiologist at the US CDC has suggested his former colleagues knowingly cut corners in order to please political masters.
Writing in a social media post, he said ” I asked them for data about the adenovirus vaccine but was left without a response”.
“I hope with my whole heart that the vaccine will be protective and safe,” he said. “We’ll know soon enough if the vaccinated don’t get ill with Covid-19, which will be great. If they do get ill, we’ll know it doesn’t work, which is bad. But if people start dying at a proportion of one in a hundred or a thousand, then it will be especially bad, and for [the developers] who will face prison.