A handout photo provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) shows samples of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, in Moscow, Russia (Courtesy: Reuters)

Less than a week after it announced registering the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus, Russia has produced the first batch of it and may begin mass vaccination by December.

The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian health ministry as saying so on Saturday, hours after the ministry reported the start of manufacturing, Reuters reported.

 

The mass vaccination campaign may start in Russia in December-January, Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Health Ministry, said in an interview with Interfax News Agency on Friday.

“Based on the current plans for manufacturing the vaccine, a vaccination campaign on a larger scale will begin in December-January,” he said in the Interfax report.

A handout photo provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) shows samples of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, in Moscow, Russia (Courtesy: Reuters)

“Vaccination of people from risk groups will start in August,” he said, adding that a limited amount of the vaccine has been produced inside the country thus far.

“The manufacturing of the vaccine in other countries will not impact the vaccine’s availability on the domestic market,” Gintsburg said.

“As regards the foreign market, the leadership is pursuing a different policy, which will not impact the domestic market. The technology will be transferred to the foreign market rather than the ready product itself, and other countries will produce it using their new and existing capacities,” he said.

The vaccine has been named ‘Sputnik V’ in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union.

“In 1957, the successful launch of the first space satellite by the Soviet Union reinvigorated space research around the world. The new Russian Covid-19 vaccine is therefore called Sputnik V,” reports quoting the official government website statement said.

President Vladimir Putin has assured the public that it is safe, adding that one of his daughters had taken it as a volunteer and felt good afterwards.

Last Tuesday, Putin announced on television that the country had registered the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus, which is due to be available to the general public by January. Before then, priority will be given to medical workers and teachers.

One of the biggest concerns is that the approval comes before the completion of human trials. Russia was yet to start a larger trial involving thousands of participants, commonly known as a Phase III trial, which is normally considered an essential precursor to a regulatory approval.

Putin claimed the vaccine offers “sustainable immunity” against Covid-19. He said one of his daughters had received the inoculation and felt better.

Sputnik V has not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is maintaining “close contact with the Russian health authorities.” According to WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, the prequalification of any vaccine requires “rigorous review and assessment of all required safety and efficacy data,” which the organization is yet to see.

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