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Russia plans coronavirus vaccination program from October

August 1, 2020

The speed at which Russia plans to roll out its first potential vaccine has sparked concerns over whether Moscow prioritizes national prestige over health and safety. Russia hopes the vaccine will be launched by October.

Grippol vaccine was used for vaccinations against flu
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/I.Zarembo

Russian health authorities are preparing a mass vaccination campaign to fight the coronavirus for October, local news agencies reported on Saturday.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announced that the Gamaleya Institute, a state research facility in Moscow, had completed clinical trials of an adenovirus-based vaccine.  Murashko said that paperwork was already underway to register the drug, according to Russia's Interfax news agency. 

"We plan wider vaccinations for October," Murashko said, adding that doctors and teachers would be the first to be treated.

Murashko said 800 people would take part in stage three trials, and at the same time production would begin, resulting in "large-scale production and large-scale application." 

The vaccine will secure local regulatory approval in August and be administered to health workers soon thereafter, Reuters reported, citing an anonymous source.

Read more: Vaccination: A long and perilous history

But the speed at which Russia is rolling out its first potential COVID-19 vaccine has led critics to question whether Moscow is undermining health and safety risks at the cost of winning the race to uncover the first successful COVID-19 vaccine. 

Race to uncover vaccine 

More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed around the world to try and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, at least four vaccines are in the final phase three human trials, including three developed in China and another in the UK.

Russia's vaccine is still in its second phase, which is expected to be complete by August 3 and will take place at the same time as medical workers get vaccinated. Russia's vaccine will require an additional shot, which is unlike a lot of vaccines, CNN reported. 

Read more: Oxford coronavirus vaccine: Will it provide lasting immunity?

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund, which funded the vaccine research, compared the vaccine campaign to Russia beating the US in launching the first successful satellite in 1957.

"It's a Sputnik moment," he said.

According to Russian scientists, the Gamaleya Institute's vaccine was developed quickly because it's based on a modified vaccine that's been used for different diseases.

Health officials said the vaccine data would become available for review and publication early next month. 

On Saturday, Russia registered 5,462 new cases, raising the total to 845,443 and 95 new COVID-19 deaths, taking total to 14,058.

mvb/rc (Reuters, RIA, IFAX)