Russia has become the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Vladimir Putin has announced, amid concerns the process was rushed for political purposes.
The Russian president said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is “feeling well”.
The announcement came after less than two months of human testing, sparking concerns that the country is putting national prestige before sound science and safety.
Scientists say the rush to start using the vaccine before Phase 3 trials – which usually last for months and involve thousands of people – could backfire.
But Mr Putin said the vaccine has undergone the necessary tests and has proven efficient, and offers a lasting immunity from COVID-19, paving the way for the mass inoculation of the Russian population.
Speaking at a government meeting, the Russian leader said: “I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests. The most important thing is to ensure full safety of using the vaccine and its efficiency.”
He added that one of his two daughters “has taken part in the experiment” and has received two shots of the vaccine.
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He explained that his daughter had a temperature of 38C on the day of the first vaccine, but it dropped to just over 37C the next day.
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She had a slight increase in temperature following the second dose of the vaccine, but is now “feeling well and has a high number of antibodies”.
Mr Putin did not specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, had received the vaccine.
Medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to be inoculated, Russian officials said.
Mr Putin emphasised that the vaccination will be voluntary.
Large-scale production of the vaccine is expected to start in September, and mass vaccination may begin as early as October.
Phase 3 trials are normally considered an essential step before a vaccine to receive regulatory approval.
Both domestic and international experts have expressed doubts at Moscow’s claim.
Peter Kremsner, from the University Hospital in Tuebingen, said: “Normally you need a large number of people to be tested before you approve a vaccine.” He is currently testing CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials.
More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed, with at least four in Phase 3 human trials, according to WHO data.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world has reached 20 million, with experts believing the real figure is much higher.
Russia has nearly 800,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 15,000 deaths.
Source : Sky News