Coronavirus: Russia could become first country to approve COVID-19 vaccine - reports

COVID-19 vaccine stock image.
COVID-19 vaccine stock image. Photo credit: Getty

It appears that Russia could be the first country to approve a vaccine for COVID-19, with a mass vaccination campaign believed to be planned for as early as October.

However, clinical trials are yet to be completed, according to reports. As reported by Al Jazeera, Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's Direct Investment Fund - the sovereign wealth fund bankrolling the vaccine's development - has claimed the vaccine may be approved before phase three of its clinical trials has been completed. Phase three marks the final stage of the trial process to ensure a product's safety and effectiveness.

Trials for the vaccine - developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute and the Russian Defence Ministry - have been undertaken at both the Burdenko Main Military Clinic Hospital and the Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University in Moscow.

On Friday (local time), Russia's deputy health minister, Oleg Gridnev, announced that healthcare professionals and senior citizens will be the first to receive the vaccine once it is launched. He also revealed that the vaccine is set to be registered on August 12, following reports it would be approved by regulators this month.

It's believed the substance will be tested on roughly 1600 people following the registration process.

The World Health Organization has stressed that all candidates developing a vaccine must complete the full stages of testing before the product can be administered to the public.

"Any vaccine for this purpose should be, of course, going through all the various trials and tests before being licenced for roll-out," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in a statement.

Quoted by Interfax news agency earlier in August, Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko said that paperwork was being prepared to register the vaccine.

"We plan wider vaccinations for October," he said.

The news follows the United States' leading physician and immunologist, Dr Anthony Fauci, questioning candidates known to be fast-tracking their respective vaccines.

"I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing a vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone, because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing I think is problematic at best," Dr Fauci said.

Fauci has previously claimed that the US should have a "safe and effective" vaccine by the end of 2020.

"I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines," he told US lawmakers.

In July, Russian scientists and health authorities claimed that early-stage trials of an adenovirus-based vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute had been completed and the results were successful.

In the UK, trials of a vaccine developed by Oxford University have shown the substance can trigger an immune response, and a deal has been signed with AstraZeneca to supply 100 million doses in Britain alone. 

More than 20 possible vaccines for COVID-19 are currently being tested in clinical trials around the world.