Russia's health ministry has announced that it expects to begin mass anti-coronavirus vaccinations by October, with the first rounds to be administered to front line medical workers as well as teachers.
“We plan wider vaccinations for October,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Saturday after he described that Moscow-based state research facility, the Gamaleya Institute, has completed clinical trials of an effective vaccine.
Since the crisis began impacting countries outside of China at the start of this year, the international race has been on to produce a vaccine, which most officials have estimated would likely take 18 months, but it appears Russia — currently the fourth most infected country in the world with 843,900 cases — is pushing to the be first out with a vaccine for its population.
Reuters reports local regulatory approval could be fast-tracked and be completed as early by sometime mid-August.
“Now, the package of documents for the procedure of registration [of the vaccine] is being prepared,” Murashko said Saturday in his statement. But international reports have also noted the ambitious timeline is raising questions:
"Yet the speed at which Russia is moving to roll it out has prompted some Western media to question whether Moscow is putting national prestige before science and safety," Reuters comments.
Its earliest rounds of testing was done on soldiers, Russian officials have said.
In 14 days time...Russia will officially release the world's first covid 19 vaccine...Putin means business... pic.twitter.com/LwMHru4QdS— Ahmednasir Abdullahi SC (@ahmednasirlaw) July 31, 2020
The WSJ noted last week that "The vaccine, which has gone through two phases of testing, is expected to be registered with the Health Ministry by August 14," according to Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF.
“We have very strict procedures and they will follow all of them,” Dmitriev was cited in WSJ as saying. “I am so confident in the vaccine I injected it myself.”
Currently another vaccine developed in Russia, by Novosibirsk-based infectious diseases lab Vector, is also undergoing clinical trials, and is soon expected to be tested on volunteers.
The urgency stems in part from Russia being among the earliest hit countries with a large population. At one point it had the second highest infection rate in the world, which strained hospitals and the health system to breaking point.