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Putin announces registration of Russia’s first coronavirus vaccine

Source: Meduza

Russia has registered its first vaccine against the coronavirus, announced President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with members of the government on Tuesday, August 11. According to the Russian president, the vaccine is effective, builds stable immunity, and has passed all of the necessary tests.

Putin claimed that one one of his daughters “participated in the experiment” and received the Russian coronavirus shot (he didn’t specify which daughter he was referring to, which is typical, since he has never publicly confirmed the identities of his children). Putin explained that after the first vaccination, his daughter had a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (100 degree Fahrenheit), which dropped to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) the next day. “And that was it. After the second injection, the second vaccination, [her] temperature also rose a bit, but then it all went away, she feels fine,” Putin said. The head of the Gamaleya Research Institute (an epidemiological center running one of Russia’s vaccine trials), Alexander Ginzburg, told Interfax that he doesn’t know how Putin’s daughter got the vaccine. “She was probably a volunteer, I didn’t look at [her] passport. I don’t know what all the volunteers look like,” he said.

Putin anticipates that Russia will be able to mass produce its coronavirus vaccine. However, he also added that vaccination should be voluntary. In turn, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that the vaccine will be produced by the Gamaleya Institute, as well as the Zelenograd-based company, Binnopharm. Other enterprises will begin producing the vaccine at a later date. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that Russia could begin vaccinating healthcare workers against the coronavirus at the end of August or September. The Health Ministry hopes that the vaccine will help maintain long term immunity to the coronavirus, possibly for up to two years.

The vaccine will be put into circulation amongst the general population by January 1, 2021, Interfax reports, citing the State Medicines Register. However, the Gamaleya Institute’s head, Alexander Ginzburg, said that the vaccine will be put into circulation in Russia’s regions after the start of the third phase of trials in Moscow, which they are prepared to start “as soon as the money comes in.”

On August 10, the non-profit Association of Clinical Research Organizations (AOKI) called on Russia’s Health Ministry to postpone the registration of the vaccine. In an open letter, AOKI emphasized that the Gamaleya Institute had yet to complete any trials involving “even hundreds of people” and said that mass production of the drug has yet to be developed. 

In response, both Russia’s federal healthcare watchdog, Roszdravnadzor, and the Health Ministry’s chief epidemiologist opposed delaying the registration process. Rosdravnadzor’s Deputy Head Valentina Kosenko told RBK that the vaccine had been tested on several hundreds volunteers without any adverse side effects. She also added that the third (post-registration) phase of the vaccine trials would involve several thousand volunteers. Similarly, the Health Ministry’s chief epidemiologist, Nikolai Briko, insisted that he saw no reason to “put obstacles” in the way of registering the Gamaleya Institute’s coronavirus vaccine, adding that accelerating the registration process makes sense in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “It [the vaccine] has shown that it’s safe, it’s continued effectiveness will be studied,” Briko said.

Text by Eilish Hart

Cover photo: RIA Novosti / Telegram