President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of its Western rivals, the United Kingdom and United States.
The move has been hailed in Russia as proof of the country’s scientific prowess despite earlier claims of hacking UK vaccine research centres, an allegation vehemently denied by Moscow.
This paves the way for the mass vaccination of Russians by September even as the trials for the vaccine’s safety and efficacy continue.
Speaking at a government meeting on state television, Putin said the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, was safe and that it had even been administered to one of his daughters.
“I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks,” said President Putin.
He said he hoped the country would soon start mass-producing the vaccine.
“Russian scientists passed necessary test stages and proved the safety and effectiveness of the drug. Our medicine has adequately coped with the epidemic and now gives hope not only to our country, but to the whole world. Once the Soviet satellite paved the way for humanity into space, now the Russian vaccine will pave the way to the future without COVID-19, masks and social isolation,” said the Russian leader.
Earlier, Russia had said that its health workers and teachers would be given first priority to volunteer fro the mass inoculation soon after the vaccine’s approval.
Scientists across the globe are busy chasing vaccines as the coronavirus cases continue to spike worldwide, having reached 20 million cases by Tuesday.
Over 100 possible vaccines are being developed with Russian scientists laying claim to possible 17 options.
At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data.