Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that his nation’s health authorities have approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine.
Putin’s claim that Russia has won the global race to approve a coronavirus vaccine for human use was made at a government meeting and announced on state TV, various Western media outlets reported.
“A vaccine against coronavirus has been registered for the first time in the world this morning,” Putin said, according to CNN.
The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Institute and bears the name Sputnik V, an homage to the 1957 satellite launch that gave Russia an initial victory in the global space race.
In announcing the vaccine, Putin claimed that one of his two daughters had already taken it. He said she initially experienced a slight increase in body temperature after both rounds of the injection but that she had no other ill effects.
While the global community would no doubt welcome a vaccine for the coronavirus that has now infected over 20 million people and claimed nearly 740,000 lives worldwide, regardless of its origins, Putin’s announcement on Tuesday raised concerns about the safety of the vaccine and the testing process.
Gamaleya’s vaccine has not yet undergone Phase 3 trials to properly test its effectiveness, leading some critics to worry that it is being pushed through too quickly in order to give Russia a geopolitical victory. Putin insisted that the vaccine has been through the necessary testing.
“I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity,” he said on Tuesday.
According to the Russian Health Ministry, the vaccine will provide immunity against the novel coronavirus for up to two years. Medical workers, teachers and at-risk individuals will be at the front of the line when vaccinations begin. Officials claim that could happen as early as this month, according to a Euronews report. Vaccinations on a wider scale in Russia could start as early as October.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that more than 160 vaccine efforts are currently underway worldwide. The WHO still officially recognizes the Gamaleya vaccine as being in Phase 1, but Kirill Dmitriev, who heads the Russian Direct Investment Fund that supports the Gamaleya project, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that he expects the WHO to officially recognize Sputnik V as the world’s first coronavirus vaccine. He added that the health authorities of 20 different countries have already applied for more than one billion doses of the vaccine.
The top US official on the coronavirus, Anthony Fauci, warned earlier this month that releasing a vaccine without widespread testing would be “problematic at best.”
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in testimony to Congress.
China has already approved an experimental coronavirus vaccine for its military. That CanSino adenovirus vaccine is one of five that the Alliance for Science has identified as the world’s most promising vaccine candidates for stopping the COVID-19 pandemic.