Moscow (CNN) – Russia intends to be the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against coronavirus, in less than two weeks, according to CNN. And despite concerns about its safety, effectiveness, and whether the country has taken essential shortcuts in development, at least 20 nations and some American companies have expressed interest in the vaccine, Russian officials say.
Officials told CNN on Wednesday they were working to approve the vaccine, which has been created by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, around August 10 or earlier. It will be approved for public use and front-line healthcare workers will receive it first, they said.
“This is a Sputnik moment,” said Kirill Dmitriev, director of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which funds Russian vaccine research, referring to the successful launch in 1957 of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union.
“The Americans were surprised to hear the Sputnik whistle. It is the same with this vaccine. Russia will have come first, “he added.
But Russia has not released scientific data on its vaccine tests and CNN cannot verify its claimed safety or effectiveness. Critics say the country’s push for a vaccine comes amid pressure politics from the Kremlin, which wants to portray Russia as a global scientific force.
There are also major concerns that the human proof of the vaccine is incomplete.
Dozens of vaccine trials are underway around the world and a small number are in large-scale efficacy trials, but most developers have warned that much work remains before their vaccines can be approved.
India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are among dozens of countries that have expressed interest in Russia’s vaccine, according to Russian officials. CNN has contacted the three named countries but has received no response.
And while there has not been a “complete official approach to Russia from the American side,” some private companies in U.S They also “started preliminary investigations to learn more about the vaccine,” Dmitriev said Thursday. However, the sovereign wealth fund declined to name the companies.
Russia is open to cooperate with the US, according to Dmitriev. He added that it does not “exclude the possibility that [EE.UU.] be one of the countries to approve the Russian vaccine, after clinical trials and approvals. “
While some global vaccines are in the third phase of the trials, the Russian vaccine has not yet completed its second phase. The developers plan to complete that phase by August 3 and then carry out the third phase of testing in parallel with the vaccination of medical workers.
Russian scientists say the vaccine has developed rapidly because it is a modified version of one already created to fight other diseases. That is the approach that is being taken in many other countries and by other companies.
Remarkably, Moderna, whose vaccine is backed by the US government and started Phase 3 testing on Monday, has built its coronavirus vaccine on the spine of a vaccine it had been developing for a related virus, MERS. While this has accelerated the development process, American and European regulators require the full complement of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy tests.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says the soldiers volunteered in human trials.
In recorded comments provided to CNN, Alexander Ginsburg, the project director, said the vaccine had already been injected.
Russian authorities say the vaccine is accelerating through approval due to the global pandemic and Russia’s serious coronavirus problem. The country now has more than 800,000 confirmed cases.
“Our scientists focused not on being the first but on protecting people,” said Dmitriev.
The vaccine uses human adenovirus vectors that have been weakened so that they do not replicate in the body. Unlike most vaccines in development, it is based on two vectors, not one, and patients would receive a second booster injection.
Officials say their scientific data is currently being collected and will be available for peer review and publication in early August.
“Russia brought together its leading position in vaccine development and its proven Ebola vaccine platform and MERS to provide the first safe and efficient solution to the world’s biggest problem,” Dmitriev told CNN earlier.
The World Health Organization says there is no approved vaccine for MERS.
However, officials from the Russian Direct Investment Fund told CNN that at least 20 countries had expressed interest in obtaining the vaccine, including India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. CNN was unable to immediately verify these details, but contacted the countries mentioned for comment.
The Health Ministry says front-line medical staff will be the first to be vaccinated once the new drug has been approved for public use.
At a government meeting on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova confirmed that the vaccine would be registered in August and added that Russia would mass-produce it in September.
Large-scale vaccine trials in the UKThe United States and elsewhere are moving fast, but they have not promised to meet the deadlines for product approval.
The first results of trials of a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca were promising, but Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said earlier this month that “there is a long way to go”.
“These are Phase 1 studies. Now we have to move to real-world trials on a larger scale, but it’s good to see more data and more products in this very important phase of vaccine discovery,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Kremlin denied allegations of Russian spies hacking US, Canadian, and British research labs to steal vaccine development secrets.
Russian officials also denied reports that members of the country’s political and business elite, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, had had early access to the vaccine.
Zahra Ullah contributed to this report from Moscow and Rob Picheta contributed from London.