Coronavirus: Experts warn against Russia's COVID-19 vaccine approval

Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was safe and had been administered to one of his daughters.
Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was safe and had been administered to one of his daughters. Photo credit: Getty

An epidemiologist has warned about Russia's sprint into getting a COVID-19 vaccine approved.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that the country had approved of a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing - and would be moving quickly into manufacturing.

But experts have said Russia is taking a dangerous step by jumping ahead of so-called Phase 3 trials, according to The New York Times.

"I think it's really scary. It's really risky," said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University. 

Putin said the vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute, was safe and that it had been administered to one of the daughters.

The Russian institute put up a website saying that the Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of the vaccine completed on August 1 and that the vaccine "induced strong antibody and cellular immune response."

An infectious disease expert, however, told The New York Times that even if vaccines show promising effects from early trials, it may flop in later stages.

The timing of Russia's announcement makes it "very unlikely that they have sufficient data about the efficacy of the product," said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and infectious disease expert at the University of Florida.

The website claims the Phase 3 clinical trial will start on August 12 involving more than 2,000 people in Russia, and several Middle Eastern and Latin American countries.

All other trials for COVID-19 vaccines, however, involve around 30,000 people to make sure that the side effects from the vaccine are acceptable - according to John Hopkins vaccine expert Ruth Karron.

"We know that these vaccines are promising, but we don't yet know if they are going to work. That's what the purpose of an efficacy trial is - as well as to provide a broader assessment of safety of the vaccine in a large number of people," she said.