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Putin Says Vaccine Has Been Approved For Use: COVID-19

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President Putin said one of his daughters had been vaccinated against the virus. Photo Courtesy

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a locally developed vaccine for Covid-19 has been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans.

Mr. Putin said the vaccine had passed all the required checks, adding that his daughter had already been given it.

Officials have said they have plans to start mass vaccination in October.

Experts have raised concerns about the speed of Russia’s work, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners.

Amid fears that safety could have been compromised, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Russia last week to follow international guidelines for producing a vaccine against Covid-19.

On Tuesday, the WHO said it had been in talks with Russian authorities about undertaking a review of the vaccine.

President Putin said one of his daughters had been vaccinated against the virus. Photo Courtesy

Currently, the Russian vaccine is not among the WHO’s list of six vaccines that have reached phase three clinical trials, which involve more widespread testing in humans.

More than 100 vaccines around the world are in early development, with some of those being tested on people in clinical trials.

Despite rapid progress, most experts think any vaccine would not become widely available until mid-2021.

Calling it a world first, President Putin said the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, offered “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus.

He said he knew the vaccine was “quite effective”, without giving further details, and stressed that it had passed “all needed checks”.

But the vaccine’s approval by Russian regulators comes before the completion of a larger study involving thousands of people, known as a phase three trial.

Experts consider these trials an essential part of the testing process.

Despite this, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Tuesday the vaccine had “proven to be highly effective and safe”, hailing it as a big step towards “humankind’s victory” over Covid-19.

Russia is fast-tracking its Covid-19 vaccine at an extraordinary pace. It began the first clinical trials on 1 June, months after teams in China, the US and Europe.

Unlike other groups, the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow has not released any safety or immunity data from its studies. This makes it impossible for independent scientists to make an assessment.

President Putin is keen to send a clear message to the world regarding the prowess of Russian science. But simply being first is not enough.

No Covid-19 vaccine being developed has yet been shown to offer protection against coronavirus.

Felicity Gitonga

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