An employee works with a coronavirus vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow on Tuesday. AP
President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday 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 vaccine still has to complete final trials, raising concerns among some experts at the speed of its approval, but the Russian business conglomerate Sistema has said it expects to put it into mass production by the end of the year.
Russian health workers treating COVID-19 patients will be offered the chance of volunteering to be vaccinated in the coming weeks, a source told Reuters last month.
Regulatory approval paves the way for the mass inoculation of the Russian population and authorities hope it will allow the economy, which has been battered by fallout from the virus, to return to full capacity.
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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting. File photo
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.
He said he hoped the country would soon start mass producing the vaccine.
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.
Russia has said the vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute and the first for the coronavirus to go into production, will be rolled out by the end of this month. Some scientists said they fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.
The World Health Organization said any WHO stamp of approval on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review, after Russia announced Tuesday it had approved a vaccine.
The development of a coronavirus vaccine or treatment will be key to allowing the postponed Tokyo 2020 games to open in a year's time, organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said Wednesday.
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