Russia produces first batch of vaccine against “Sputnik V” virus: ministry

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MOSCOW – Russia said on Saturday it had produced the first batch of its coronavirus vaccine, after President Vladimir Putin announced it was the first in the world to approve a vaccine. Putin’s announcement on the vaccine on Tuesday was greeted with caution by scientists and the World Health Organization, who said a rigorous safety review was still needed.

“The first batch of the new coronavirus vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute has been produced,” the health ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Putin said the vaccine was safe and that one of his own daughters had been inoculated, although clinical trials are not yet complete and end-stage testing involving more than 2,000 people only started this week.

Western scientists were skeptical, with some warnings that acting too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous, but Russia has denounced the criticism as an attempt to undermine Moscow’s research.

The Russian vaccine is called “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was first launched into space in 1957.

It was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow in coordination with the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The head of the institute, Alexander Gintsburg, told the national news agency TASS on Saturday that volunteers participating in the final phase of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy testing would have two inoculations.

Russia said industrial production is expected from September and plans to manufacture 5 million doses per month by December or January.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said this week that the vaccine would first be made available to doctors and then be available to all Russians on a voluntary basis.

With more than 917,000 confirmed infections, the number of coronavirus cases in Russia is currently the fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.

Currently, Russia has 92,000 people hospitalized for the virus and 2,900 in intensive care, according to the Ministry of Health.

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