Russia to give its COVID-19 vaccine to volunteers this week

The TASS news agency quoted Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announcing that Russia will start to offer its COVID-19 vaccine to volunteers this week.
September 08, 2020 | 10:03
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Russia will start to offer its COVID-19 vaccine to volunteers this week. Photo: CNN

"This week, we will launch the vaccination of volunteers who’ll take part in Phase III of the clinical trials. Next week, the first deliveries of the vaccine will be launched, these will be small batches yet, as we need to respect the interests of all those involved," said Health Minister Mikhail Murashko.

Concurrently, first supplies of the coronavirus vaccine to Russian regions are planned for the next week, Murashko added.

"Vaccination of those who will undergo clinical trials under Phase 3 begins this week. Concurrently, first deliveries of the vaccine [to the regions] will begin, modest so far, in order to meet all interests”.

Earlier, the minister explained that at the present stage high-risk groups will be vaccinated, in particular medics and teachers, and that the vaccination will proceed along with post-registration clinical trials.

Russian Covid-19 vaccine induces an immune response in small human trials

Russia's coronavirus vaccine produced an antibody response in all participants in two early-stage trials, according to results published by The Lancet.

The medical journal said on Friday the results of the trials - conducted in June-July and involving 76 people - showed 100 percent of participants developing antibodies to the new coronavirus and no serious side-effects, Aljazeera reported.

"The two 42-day trials - including 38 healthy adults each - did not find any serious adverse effects among participants, and confirmed that the vaccine candidates elicit an antibody response," The Lancet said.

"Large, long-term trials including a placebo comparison and further monitoring are needed to establish the long-term safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for preventing COVID-19 infection," it added.

Putin's vaccine encounters opposition from frontline workers in Russia

Vladimir Putin announced the approval of Russia's Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine on August 11 amid much fanfare, saying it works "quite effectively" in forming a stable immunity, CNN reported.

How would he know this? Because the Russian President revealed one of his daughters had already taken it.

Speaking on Russian state TV at the time, Putin said his daughter had a slightly higher temperature after each dose of the two-stage coronavirus vaccine, but that "Now she feels well."

Russian authorities have singled out teachers -- as well as doctors -- as key workers who will get access to the vaccine first, even before crucial phase 3 human trials have finished.

But that's not gone down well with some sections of these frontline workers who don't buy Putin's claims of the efficacy of the vaccine and are reluctant to be used as human guinea pigs.

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Employees walk on May 20 in a passage at the headquarters of Russia's biotech company BIOCAD, which has been working on a vaccine against the coronavirus. Photo: CNN

On September 1, Russian classrooms reopened for the first time since March amid the Covid-19 pandemic -- the same day the country surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases. Teachers were meant to be among the first to benefit from Russia's new coronavirus vaccine, especially given the close contact with hundreds of children that they are exposed to on a daily basis. But CNN is learning that few -- if any -- have so far taken up the offer to be vaccinated.

A Russian teachers' union, "Uchitel," started an online petition calling on members to reject the vaccine outright on safety grounds, and expressing concern that vaccination -- currently voluntary -- should not be made mandatory unless clinical trials are complete.

Developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, the Sputnik-V vaccine was named after the surprise 1957 launch of the world's first satellite by the Soviet Union.

Russia's claim of victory at being the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine in a worldwide pandemic was initially met with widespread concern and unanswered questions over its safety and effectiveness, and not just from outside the country.

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Malie Nguyen
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