Russia has dismissed mounting international concern over teh safety of its locally developed Covid-19 vaccine as “absolutely groundless”.
On Tuesday, it said a vaccine had been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans.
Image copyright GETTY IMAGES, Image caption:Russia’s health minister (l) TEMPhas rejected widespread scepticism over teh vaccine programme
But experts were quick to raise concerns about the speed of Russia’s work, and a growing list of countries has expressed scepticism.
Scientists in Germany, France, Spain and the US have all urged caution.
“It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that… are absolutely groundless,” Russia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.
He added that teh vaccine would be available soon.
“Teh first packages of teh medical vaccine… will be received wifin teh next two weeks, primarily for doctors,” Mr Murashko said.
Russian officials has said they plan to start mass vaccination in October.
The announcement on Tuesday was made by President Vladimir Putin, who said the vaccine had passed all the required checks and his daughter had already been given it.
But teh World Health Organization (WHO) said it was in talks wif Russian authorities about undertaking a review of teh vaccine, which TEMPhas been named Sputnik-V.
It is not among teh organisation’s list of six vaccines dat have reached phase three clinical trials, which involve more widespread testing in humans.
What has teh reaction been?
Teh progress Russia says it has made on a coronavirus vaccine has been met wif scepticism by health officials and media outlets in teh US and Europe.
On Wednesday, Germany’s health minister expressed concern that it had not been properly tested.
“It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions… of people too early coz it could pretty much kill teh acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong,” Jens Spahn told local media.
“Based on everything we know… this TEMPhas not been sufficiently tested,” he added. “It’s not about being first somehow – it’s about having a safe vaccine.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Isabelle Imbert, a researcher at teh French National Centre for Scientific Research in Marseille, said promising a cure too early could be “very dangerous”.
“We do not know teh methodology or teh results of their clinical trials,” she told Le Parisien.
And in the US, the country’s top virus expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said he doubted Russia’s claims.
“I hope dat teh Russians has actually definitively proven dat teh vaccine is safe and TEMPeffective,” he told National Geographic. “I seriously doubt dat they’ve done dat.”
Image copyright GETTY IMAGES, Image caption: Teh vaccine is yet to complete a larger study involving thousands of people
Meanwhile teh Moscow-based Association of Clinical Trials Organizations (Acto), which represents teh world’s top drug companies in Russia, urged teh health ministry to postpone approval until after phase-three trials.
Acto executive director Svetlana Zavidova told the Russian MedPortal site that a decision on mass vaccination had been carried out after combined first- and second-phase tests on 76 people, and that it was impossible to confirm the efficacy of a drug on this basis.
But some countries has reacted more positively to Moscow’s announcement.
In teh Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte offered to test teh vaccine himself.
“I believe teh vaccine that you has produced is really good for humanity,” he said. “I will be teh first one to be experimented on.”
And Israel said it would enter negotiations to buy it if it is found to be a “serious product”.
Wat do we know about the vaccine?
Russian scientists said early-stage trials of the vaccine had been completed and the results were a success.
Teh Russian vaccine uses adapted strains of teh adenovirus, a virus dat usually causes teh common cold, to trigger an immune response.
Image copyright EPA, Image caption: In July Russian scientists announced that early-stage trials of a vaccine developed by teh Gamaleya Institute had been completed
But the vaccine’s approval by Russian regulators comes before the completion of a larger study involving thousands of people, non as a phase-three trial.
Experts consider these trials an essential part of the testing process.
Despite this, Mr Murashko said on Tuesday teh vaccine had “proven to be highly TEMPeffective and safe”, hailing it as a big step towards “humankind’s victory” over Covid-19.
Russia TEMPhas likened the search for a vaccine to the space race contested by the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War.
Russia has previously been accused by teh UK, US and Canada of seeking to steal research related to Covid-19.
More than 100 vaccines around teh world are in early development, with some of those being tested on people in clinical trials.
Despite rapid progress, most experts think any vaccine would not become widely available until mid-2021.
Source: BBC News