Putin’s plan for Russian coronavirus vaccine may backfire, expert says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Syria.Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin is trying to achieve “a national victory” with the planned deployment of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, after mismanaging his country’s epidemic and failing to revive the economy, an expert said on Wednesday.Claiming this is the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, Putin announced on Tuesday that the Russian vaccine “works quite efficiently” and “has passed all the necessary checks”. His claim that has drawn skepticism from scientists and public health officials.

“Let’s be very frank here: Putin needs a victory, he needs a national victory,” J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president of the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Squawk Box Asia From CNBC.

“He has mismanaged the epidemic in his own territory, he has lost public confidence in his efforts, his economy is on the back burner, he cannot carry out any of the large, costly public infrastructure projects he promised at the time. of the last election campaign. , ” he added.

This is a case where Russia is cutting corners for big gains, big victories at the national level and – they hope – at the international level.

J. Stephen Morrison

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Russia has reported more than 895,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease and more than 15,100 deaths Wednesday afternoon in Asia, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country’s cumulative infections are the fourth highest in the world behind the United States, Brazil and India, according to data from Hopkins.

Like many experts, Morrison questioned the speed at which Russia has tested its vaccine. Clinical trials were completed in less than two months, and larger “phase three” trials are not expected to start until Wednesday. There has not yet been published data on previous trials, so the safety and efficacy of the vaccine remains uncertain.

Still, Russia has announced that full-scale production will begin next month.

“This is a case where Russia is cutting corners for big wins, big wins at the national level and – they hope – internationally,” Morrison said.

“It’s a high risk, it’s a high risk of backfire, especially if there is a negative impact and if they try to cover it up. And this is not the normal regulation of the road, and therefore it causes a lot of discomfort. ”

With the vaccine, Putin is trying to evoke the “golden days” of Russian science and immunology for a long time, said Morrison, who is also director of CSIS’s Global Health Policy Center.

The Russian president has also marketed the vaccine to other countries, including the Philippines, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, according to Morrison. It could be Putin “playing on the worry” among low- and middle-income countries that they would lose to rich nations with the resources to procure the vaccines produced by the world’s big pharmaceutical companies, he said. Explain.

– CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.

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