Destinations

Russia approves controversial COVID-19 vaccine

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Russia has become the world’s first nation to register a vaccine for the coronavirus, but global health authorities say the vaccine is yet to complete critical ‘Phase III’ clinical trials.

President Vladimir Putin told members of the Russian government on Tuesday (local time) that he hoped Russia will launch mass production of the coronavirus vaccine in the near future, as reported by Russian news agency Interfax.

According to the news agency, the Russian President also stressed that vaccination should be “exclusively voluntary” so that everyone can benefit from the achievements of the country’s scientists.

“I know that work on vaccines of this kind in Russia continues in other institutions. I wish all specialists success,” Putin said.

“We must be grateful to those who took this first step, very important for our country, in general for the whole world.”

He asked Health Minister Mikhail Murashko to talk about the vaccine, but at the same time noted: “Although I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity, I repeat: it has passed all the necessary tests.”

The minister said that vaccine trials have shown high efficacy and safety of the drug.

“All the volunteers developed high [levels] of antibodies to COVID-19. At the same time, none of them had serious complications of immunisation,” Murashko said.

It’s a monumental achievement – one that could mean the race for a vaccine to the coronavirus is almost up, and international travel is closer than ever before, right?

Well, we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath in anticipation.

Internationally, health authorities have huge concerns with the speed at which Russia has arrived at a vaccine – branded Sputnik V (after Sputnik I, the Soviet Union’s first artificial Earth satellite, which launched in 1957 during the Space Race) – after less than two months of human testing.

Asked on Monday about Russia’s plans to register the vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Institute, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged caution.

“There are established practices and there are guidelines out,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said at the United Nations in Geneva, as reported by ABC News.

“Any vaccine … [or medicine] for this purpose should be, of course, going through all the various trials and tests before being licensed for rollout.

“Sometimes, individual researchers claim they have found something, which is of course, as such, great news.

“But between finding or having a clue of maybe having a vaccine that works, and having gone through all the stages, is a big difference.”

Putin said he hoped the country would soon start mass-producing the vaccine, with its approval by the Health Ministry foreshadowing the start of a larger trial involving thousands of participants, known as a Phase III trial, which is used to determine potential vaccines’ safety and efficacy.

It’s become abundantly clear in recent weeks and months that the development of a COVID-19 vaccine will be absolutely critical for the wholesale return of international travel to and from Australia.

Australia’s former Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, warned just that in his ‘exit interview’ in June with ABC News.


Featured image source: iStock/MarianVejcik

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