Russia’s Ministry of Health has on Tuesday approved the first Covid-19 vaccine in the world. Developed by Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, the vaccine has undergone less than two months of human testing.
According to Russia’s Minister of Health, Mikhail Murashko, the country will begin a mass vaccination campaign in October, starting with teachers and medical workers.
Russia is yet to complete clinical trials for the vaccine. This has sparked international criticism that the country could be placing national prestige before science and safety.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has dispelled those claims and instead expressed his confidence in the vaccine.
“It works effectively enough, forms a stable immunity and I repeat, it has gone through all necessary tests,” Mr Putin said in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. President Putin claimed that one of his daughters had taken the vaccine.
Russia’s Gamaleya Institute tested the vaccine on monkeys and humans. However, the institute is yet to test it on a large number of people in highly controlled trials. The latter is considered as the only way to determine that a vaccine is safe and effective.
The head of a government-controlled fund Kirill Dmitriev told the New York Times that Russia had not taken short cuts or stolen intellectual property to get ahead. Dmitriev clarified that Russia is relying on research on viruses and vaccines in the Soviet Union. He added that Russia was using reputable technologies like the one used to manufacture the Ebola vaccine.
The Russian Covid-19 vaccine uses two strains of adenovirus which causes mild flu in humans. Adenovirus is genetically modified to cause infected cells to make proteins once someone gets infected with Coronavirus.
AstraZeneca pharmaceutical and Oxford University are using the same approach to create a Covid-19 vaccine.