Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday launched a COVID-19 vaccine, touted as the world’s first such vaccine, too. The registration of the vaccine lays ground for mass inoculation even as the final stages of clinical trials to test safety and efficacy continue.
The announcement came in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 20 million people and killed nearly 750,000 worldwide, thus, crippling world economies. Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which finances the vaccine project, said Phase 3 trials would start on Wednesday, industrial production was expected from September and that 20 countries had pre-ordered more than a billion doses.
Further, the president has asked Health Minister Mikhail Murashko to keep him informed while at the same time noting that he knows “it works quite effectively” and “forms a stable immunity”. However, the vaccine’s registration is conditional and trials will continue while production gets underway, said Murashko. Murashko also added that the first Russian vaccine against the coronavirus will begin to be produced at two sites – the Gamaleya Research Institute and the company Binnopharm.
“We are in close contact with Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO prequalification of the vaccine, but again prequalification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all required safety and efficacy data,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a U.N. briefing in Geneva, referring to clinical trials.
Moreover, the president has tasked the government with ensuring funding for flu and coronavirus vaccination after vaccines are registered, noting that up to 60% of Russians should be vaccinated against flu.
Russia’s first coronavirus vaccine is developed jointly by Gamaleya Research Institute and the Russian Defence Ministry. Clinical trials of the vaccine began on June 18 and included 38 volunteers. All of the participants developed immunity. The first group was discharged on July 15 and the second group on July 20.
The final check-up of volunteers testing the coronavirus vaccine showed immunity in all participants, the Russian Defence Ministry said. Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya National Research Centre, said that vaccine used inanimate particles created on the basis of adenovirus.
Amid the testing and development, Russian health workers treating Covid-19 patients is planned to be offered the chance of volunteering to be vaccinated soon after the vaccine’s approval. Authorities are considering getting doctors and teachers vaccinated against the virus initially as well.
In April, Putin ordered state officials to shorten the time of clinical trials for a variety of drugs, including potential coronavirus vaccines. However, various industry bodies and pharmaceutical companies have called Russia’s rushed registration dangerous. They have questioned its extensive push to develop a vaccine as soon as this year’s end. The roll-out of this vaccine has stirred concerns that it may be putting national prestige before science and safety.
More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed around the world to try to stop the pandemic. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data. Companies including AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. are still conducting final-stage trials of their vaccines in studies that are expected to soon yield results.