Russia plans to approve the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine in under two weeks – despite concerns about its safety and effectiveness in the blistering pace meant to beat the rest of the world, according to a report.
Russian officials told CNN they are hoping that the vaccine, created by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, will be ready for primetime by Aug. 10 – or earlier — for public use, with health-care workers getting it first.
“It’s a Sputnik moment,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is financing the country’s vaccine research, told CNN, referring to the 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union.
“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping. It’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he told the network.
But Russia has not released any scientific data on the project and CNN reported that it was unable to verify its safety or effectiveness. Critics also warn that the Kremlin has been pushing to portray the country as a global scientific powerhouse.
Meanwhile, a Russian state virology institute has begun human trials of the country’s second potential vaccine — injecting the first of five volunteers with a dose earlier this week, according to Reuters, which cited the RIA news agency.
The volunteer was feeling fine, the agency reported.
The next volunteer in the trial by Siberia’s Vector virology institute is scheduled to receive a shot Thursday, RIA cited consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor as saying.
The institute, which is overseen by Rospotrebnadzor, is testing a peptide vaccine using a platform first developed for Ebola, according to a government register of all clinical trials in the country.
The trial is then expected to ramp up to 100 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60, the register shows. Vector is working on six potential coronavirus vaccines, according to World Health Organization records, Reuters reported.
Volunteers leave Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University after undergoing final examinations and taking blood tests in accordance with the trial protocol.Valery Sharifulin/TASS
More than 100 possible coronavirus vaccines are being developed around the globe. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data, including three developed in China and another in Britain.
In the US, the final test of the world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study launched Monday — with the first of 30,000 US participants beginning to test the experimental immunization developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.
In August, the final study of a vaccine from the UK’s Oxford University will begin. There are also plans to test candidates from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax in September and October, respectively.
Pfizer Inc. plans to conduct its own 30,000-person study over the summer.
While some vaccines are in the third phase of trials around the world, Russia’s Gamaleya Institute vaccine is yet to complete its second phase, according to CNN.
The researchers plan to complete that phase by Aug. 3, and then conduct the third phase in tandem with the vaccination of the medical workers, the network reported.
The Russian developers said the vaccine has been quick to develop because it is a modified version of one already used to fight against other illnesses.
“Our scientists focused not on being the first but on protecting people,” Dmitriev told CNN.
Officials said the scientific data will be made available for peer review and publication in early August.