Russia vaccine claim faces skepticism as nations renew virus battle

Russia claimed Tuesday it has developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus, despite mounting skepticism about its effectiveness as fears grow over the second wave of infections across the globe.

President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was safe and that one of his daughters had received the inoculation, dubbed “Sputnik” after the pioneering 1950s Soviet satellite.

“I know that it is quite effective, that it gives sustainable immunity,” Putin said of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with Moscow’s defense ministry.

Russia’s health ministry said though clinical trials were not yet complete and final stage testing involving more than 2,000 people was to start only on Wednesday.

Western scientists have previously raised concerns about the speed of development of Russian vaccines, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners.

The World Health Organization’s spokesman in Geneva Tarik Jasarevic said it was in “close contact” with Russian health authorities but that it was too soon for any WHO stamp of approval.

“Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data,” he said.

In Berlin, a spokesman for the German health ministry told newspaper group RND that “there is no known data on the quality, efficacy and safety of the Russian vaccine,” adding that “patient safety is of the highest priority.” (Andrea Palasciano with AFP bureaus)

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