President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that after less than two months of human research, Russia has become the first country in the world to give regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine, a development welcomed by Moscow as proof of its scientific excellence.
The vaccine still has to complete final trials, creating fears among some experts about the pace of its approval, but the Russian business group Sistema has said it plans to bring it into mass production by the end of the year.
Russian health staff treating COVID-19 patients will be given the opportunity to volunteer in the coming weeks to be vaccinated, a source told Reuters last month.
Regulatory approval paves the way for widespread inoculation of the Russian population and authorities hope that it will enable the economy to return to full efficiency, which has been ravaged by the virus.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, hailed the creation as a landmark “Sputnik moment,” comparable to Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.
The vaccine will be commercialised on international markets under the name ‘Sputnik V,’ he said. The storey has been trumpeted by state media.
But the pace at which Russia has acted, authorising a vaccine to test safety and effectiveness before the final stages of clinical trials are finished, has worried some scientists, who believe Moscow may put national prestige before health.
Speaking at a government meeting on state television, Putin addressed those fears, saying that the vaccine was safe and even given to one of his daughters, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute.
“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 mass production would start soon.