As Russia claims victory in the race to a successful coronavirus vaccine, scientists are warning against haphazardly adopting the vaccine without testing it sufficiently.
Moscow announced Tuesday that Russia has approved a coronavirus vaccine that has proven successful in testing and provides lasting immunity, making Russia the first country to register a vaccine against the pandemic.
“I know it has proven efficient and forms a stable immunity,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a speech broadcast on state television. “We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world.”
Putin added that one of his two adult daughters has already been inoculated after receiving two doses of the virus.
After the announcement, scientists in Russia and other countries warned against disseminating the vaccine widely before exhaustive final testing on tens of thousands of people can be performed. Russia’s vaccine has been tested on mere dozens of people.
“Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger,” Russia’s Association of Clinical Trials Organizations told the Associated Press.
“The collateral damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably,” said Danny Altmann, an immunology professor at Imperial College London.
Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at England’s University of Southampton, agreed.
“It’s a too early stage to truly assess whether it’s going to be effective, whether it’s going to work or not,” he said.
The chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funded the vaccine’s development said the coronavirus was “very close” to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), for which he said Russia had been developing a vaccine for two years and “slightly modified” to be a coronavirus vaccine.
“That is the real story, no politics,” said Kirill Dmitriev. “Russia has always been at the forefront of vaccine research.”
“We expect tens of thousands of volunteers to be vaccinated within the next months,” the CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said.