Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of a coronavirus vaccine for use on Tuesday, claiming it as a “world first,” amid continued concern and unanswered questions over its safety and effectiveness.
“A vaccine against coronavirus has been registered for the first time in the world this morning,” Putin said on state TV. “I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity.”
Putin added that one of his daughters had already taken it; he said she had a slightly higher temperature after each dose, but that: “Now she feels well.”
Developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, the vaccine has been named Sputnik-V, a reference to the surprise 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union. It has yet to go through crucial Phase 3 trials where it would be administered to thousands of people.
The claim of victory by Putin in the global push to make an effective vaccine against Covid-19 comes amid suggestions that Russia has cut essential corners in its development.Critics say the country’s push for a vaccine is partly due to political pressure from the Kremlin, which is keen to portray Russia as a global scientific force.
Russia has released no scientific data on its testing and CNN is unable to verify the vaccine’s claimed safety or effectiveness.
Despite this, Russian officials have told CNN that at least 20 countries and some US companies have expressed interest in the vaccine.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is funding the vaccine research, said interest from other countries for over a billion doses of the vaccine had been received.
“We’ve seen considerable interest in the Russian vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute abroad. Moreover, we have received preliminary applications for over 1 billion doses of the vaccine from 20 countries,” he said on Tuesday.
“Along with our foreign partners, we are already prepared to manufacture over 500 million doses of vaccine per year in five countries, and the plan is to ramp up production capacity even higher. So far, countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia have displayed the greatest interest in the vaccine, and we are about to finalize a number of contracts for the purchase of the vaccine.”
Dmitriev said Phase 3 trials of the vaccine would start Wednesday in Russia, and that they would also take place in other countries.
“We have already reached agreements on conducting the relevant trials of the Gamaleya vaccine [abroad] with partners from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and a number of other countries,” he said.