Coronavirus

Putin says Russia has created first Covid-19 vaccine

The Russian president said on state television Tuesday that Moscow's Gamaleya Institute has developed the world's first coronavirus vaccine.

Putin claims Russia has created first Covid-19 vaccine
ALEXEI NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / KREM EFE

Trials are underway at various stages across the world to try and create an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus with several late-stage trials reportedly underway in the US, China and the UK, among other countries. But according to Vladimir Putin, Russia has won the race to find a Covid-19 vaccine and the Russian president even stated it had been administered to one of his daughters during a television appearance.

Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move hailed by Moscow as evidence of its scientific prowess. The vaccine has been created by scientists at Moscow's Gamaleya Institute.

Russia receives orders for 1 billion doses of Sputnik V

Kirill Dmitriev, head of the country's RDIF sovereign wealth fund, said Russia had already received requests from more than 20 countries for 1 billion doses of the newly-registered vaccine, named Sputnik V for foreign markets after the name given by Western nations during the Cold War to the Korabl-Sputnik 2 mission, which was the first to safely send animals into orbit and return them to earth.

The development paves the way for the mass inoculation of the Russian population, even as the final stage of clinical trials to test safety and efficacy continue.

WHO in talks over Covid-19 vaccine prequalification 

The World Health Organization also said it was in discussions with Russia over the process for possible WHO prequalification for the vaccine.

“We are in close contact with Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO prequalification of the vaccine, but again prequalification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all required safety and efficacy data," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a U.N. briefing in Geneva, referring to clinical trials.

The speed at which Russia is moving to roll out its vaccine highlights its determination to win the global race for an effective product, but has stirred concerns that it may be putting national prestige before sound science and safety.

Putin: "I know that it works effectively"

"I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks," said Putin.

He said he hoped the country would soon start mass producing the vaccine.

Its approval by the health ministry foreshadows the start of a larger trial involving thousands of participants, commonly known as a Phase III trial.

Such trials, which require a certain rate of participants catching the virus to observe the vaccine's effect, are normally considered essential precursors for a vaccine to receive regulatory approval.

Regulators around the world have insisted that the rush to develop COVID-19 vaccines will not compromise safety. But recent surveys show growing public distrust in governments' efforts to rapidly produce such a vaccine.

Russian health workers treating Covid-19 patients will be offered the chance of volunteering to be vaccinated soon after the vaccine's approval, a source told Reuters last month.

More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed around the world to try to stop the Covid-19 pandemic. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data.

Duterte offers to be patient number one

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lauded Russia's efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and is willing to personally participate in trials, as he welcomed a supply offer from Moscow that he expects will be free of charge.

Russia has offered to supply or co-manufacture the vaccine in the Philippines, which said it was ready to work with Moscow on trials, supply and production.

The Philippines has among Asia's highest case numbers, which rose by 2,987 to 139,538 on Tuesday.

"I will tell President (Vladimir) Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating Covid and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said late on Monday. "I can be the first they can experiment on."