Russia's Rushed Vaccine

A volunteer receives a Russian-made polyvalent vector vaccine for COVID-19. Moscow, June 18, 2020. Image: Sechenov Medical University Press Office/TASS/Getty
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A volunteer receives a Russian-made polyvalent vector vaccine for COVID-19. Moscow, June 18, 2020. Image: Sechenov Medical University Press Office/TASS/Getty

Russia has declared a COVID-19 vaccine ready for use—despite a chorus of international concern that it just began Phase 3 trials last week, the AP reports.

President Vladimir Putin insisted the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, is safe; one of his daughters has already been inoculated.

But cutting short the Phase 3 trials, which usually take months, could backfire. By early August, <100 people had officially received the vaccine, the Association of Clinical Trials Organizations notes in a letter to the health minister.

Scientists also questioned Russia’s deviation from international publishing standards; as Bloomberg reports, the results of its Phase 2 trials haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Why are all corporations following the rules, but Russian ones aren’t? The rules for conducting clinical trials are written in blood … This is a Pandora’s Box and we don’t know what will happen to people injected with an unproven vaccine,” says Svetlana Zavidova, ACTO’s executive director.

Russia’s name for the vaccine encapsulates its drive to be first at any cost: Sputnik V, after the Soviet satellite that launched the global space race in 1957, The Washington Post reports.

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