Russia has become the first country in the world to formally approve a vaccine against the coronavirus, marking a new chapter in the global race toward finding a viable antidote to fight the deadly pathogen.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia's health care regulator approved a Covid-19 vaccine, though the vaccine has yet to complete clinical trials and no information about any late-phase testing has been published.
Speaking at a government meeting Tuesday, Putin said that the vaccine has undergone proper testing and is safe.
“I know it has proven efficient and forms a stable immunity, and I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests,” he said. “We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world."
The Russian leader added that one of his two adult daughters has received two shots of the vaccine. “She has taken part in the experiment,” Putin said, not naming which of his two daughters had been inoculated.
While greeted with skepticism, the announcement marks a turning point in the global race to create a viable vaccine against Covid-19, which has ravaged every country in the world and caused more than 736,000 deaths since the virus was recorded in China late last year.
When the pandemic struck Russia, Putin ordered state officials to shorten the time of clinical trials for potential coronavirus vaccines. Russia has registered 890,799 coronavirus cases, including 14,973 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.
Officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will start in September, and mass vaccination may begin as early as October. For now, the voluntary vaccination will be available to medical workers, teachers and other at-risk groups.
Numerous drug giants including the likes of Pfizer (PFE) - Get Report, Moderna (MRNA) - Get Report and Novavax (NVAX) - Get Novavax, Inc. Report have been fervently working on an effective vaccine, though none have reached the approval stage.
Meantime, the federal government has continued to dole out billions in funding to companies working on later-stage clinical development of a Covid-19 vaccine. Novavax last week was awarded $1.6 billion.
Pfizer and Moderna have also announced positive results from late-stage trials of their own respective potential coronavirus vaccines while Oxford University and Britain's AstraZeneca plc (AZN) - Get Report have published promising data from early stage trials of their own.
For its part, the World Health Organization struck a cautious tone on Tuesday, saying all vaccine candidates should go through full stages of testing before being rolled out.