Russia claims it is on track to become the first in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, in less than two weeks. However, concerns about its safety, effectiveness, and over whether the country has cut essential corners in development remain unclear, CNN reported on Wednesday.
According to the news report, the Russian officials are working towards a date of August 10 or earlier for approval of the vaccine, which has been prepared by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute and will be approved for public use, with frontline healthcare workers getting it first.
Referring to the successful 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union, Head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund Kirill Dmitriev said: “It’s a Sputnik moment. Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping. It’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first.”
However, concerns surrounding the effectiveness and safety of the potential vaccine have been raised as no scientific data to support the claims has been released.
“Critics say the country’s push for a vaccine comes amid political pressure from the Kremlin, which is keen to portray Russia as a global scientific force,” notes the report.
“There are also wide concerns the human testing of the vaccine is incomplete,” the report highlighted.
Given that dozens of vaccine trials are underway around the world and a small number are in large-scale efficacy trials, most developers have cautioned that much work remains before their vaccines can be approved and can be rolled out for public use.
Read more: Chinese disease control head injected with potential COVID-19 vaccine While some global vaccines have entered the third phase of trials, the Russian vaccine is yet to complete its second phase, which the developers plan to complete by August 3.
Moreover, the Russian scientists aspire to conduct the third phase of testing in parallel with the vaccination of the medical workers.
The vaccine has been quick to develop because it is a modified version of one already created to fight against other diseases. That’s the approach being taken in many other countries and by other companies, claimed the Russian scientists.
Meanwhile, the Russian health ministry, which has not yet confirmed the August approval date, said that the frontline medical staff will be first to be vaccinated once the new drug has been approved for public use, whereas, the country’s defence ministry said that Russian soldiers served as volunteers in human trials.
Stressing that the drug is being fast-tracked through approval because of the global pandemic and Russia’s own severe coronavirus problem as the country now has more than 800,000 confirmed cases, Dmitriev said: “Our scientists focused not on being the first but on protecting people.”—AFP