Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia has registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine — called Sputnik V — with state regulators for use.
It comes after the country boasted intentions to win the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine in recent weeks by jumping ahead of established pharmaceutical practices. No data has been published by researchers for peer review, and the long-term effects of this possible vaccine remain unclear.
“As far as I know, this morning, for the first time in the world, a vaccine against a new coronavirus infection has been registered,” Putin told a meeting of government ministers.
Last week, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is financing the vaccine trials, told NBC News that the vaccine is a “copycat” of the Ebola vaccine developed five years ago by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and a tweaked version of an earlier vaccine against the Middle East respiratory syndrome virus.
Unlike similar vaccines, such as one being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, Russia has moved ahead with approving its version before completing so-called phase three clinical trials, which are due to begin later this month.
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Instead, the first groups of people to be vaccinated — doctors, teachers and high-risk individuals — will be under some kind of observation, health officials have previously said.
In effect, Russia will be conducting its phase three trials live, treating it more as a demonstrator group than a control group meant to ensure there is nothing dangerous awaiting the larger population.
The Russian vaccine also differs from Oxford’s by using so-called adenovirus vectors from humans rather than monkeys, Dmitriev has said.
The first two phases involved just a few dozen volunteers.
On Tuesday, Putin said one of his daughters has already taken the vaccine. He also said that it forms stable immunity and passes all necessary safety checks.
Doctors will begin receiving the vaccine later by early September, Russian authorities said. As production ramps up in September and October, it will be offered to more at-risk groups before becoming widely available in January.