Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting via teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on August 11, 2020.

ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia has approved a coronavirus vaccine for mass production.

The drug — named Sputnik V in reference to Russia’s Cold War satellite — will be made available for frontline health workers from late August or September, Russian media reported. 

But the drug has raised concerns because it has not undergone phase-3 trials, which are considered essential to guarantee the safety of a vaccine.

Many experts fear the Russia may be sacrificing safety to score geopolitical points.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-diseases expert, is among those who have expressed concern in recent days.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday claimed victory in the global race to find a coronavirus vaccine, and said his own daughter had been inoculated with the drug. 

Russian authorities have approved, and are to begin mass-producing the substance — named Sputnik V after the iconic Russian satellite — developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, Russian state news agency TASS reported. 

It will be made available first Russia’s frontline public-service workers, such as medics and teachers, before being released to the general public, said Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. Medics could have access to it as early as late August or early September, according to the agency. 

Video: What we know about immunity for the coronavirus

Putin said on Tuesday: “I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and, I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks,”  as quoted by Reuters. 

Many experts have expressed reservations about the Gamaleya vaccine in recent days, however. It has not yet undergone phase-3 trials, which are considered essential to guarantee the safety of a vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on March 25, 2020.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-diseases expert in the US, is among those who have shared concerns about the fast-track process taken by countries, including Russia and China, in the race to produce a treatment. 

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In testimony to a congressional committee on July 31, Fauci said, according to CNN: “I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone. Because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing is, I think, problematic at best.”

In the testimony Fauci added that he remained optimistic that the US would be able to produce its own vaccine by the end of the year, while not cutting corners with safety standards. 

“We are going very quickly. I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines. I believe the program that is being sponsored by us right now, and being directed and implemented by us, is going at a very rapid speed — prudent, but rapid,” Fauci said.

The coronavirus crisis has prompted a race by nations to be the first to develop a vaccine, with geopolitical influence and prestige at stake as well as many thousands of lives.

Russia has recently been accused by the US, Canada, and the UK of attempting to hack their top coronavirus research centers.

Russia’s announcement is being treated with caution, as the institute that developed the treatment has only released limited information on the drug. 

“We are in close contact with Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO prequalification of the vaccine, but again prequalification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all required safety and efficacy data,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a UN briefing in Geneva Tuesday, according to Reuters.

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