SWITZERLAND, AUGUST 12 – The United States and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have washed down the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Russia, with the WHO warning that progress in fight against the virus should not compromise on safety.
US Health Secretary Alex Azar, also criticised the vaccine, accusing Moscow of withholding trial data and not being transparent.
President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday morning that Russia has registered the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus. He says the vaccine is effective in forming immunity against the deadly pathogen which has spread globally.
“As far as I know, a vaccine against the coronavirus infection has been registered this morning (in Russia) for the first time in the world,” the Russian president told members of the government. “I thank everyone who worked on the vaccine – it’s a very important moment for the whole world.”
Putin also revealed that his daughter has taken the vaccine.
However, speaking in Taiwan on Wednesday morning, the US Health Secretary, Alex Azar, likened America’s own vaccine development to the Apollo moon mission and said he believed the US would have hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine ready by the beginning of next year.
“I should note that two of the US vaccines entered the phase-three clinical trial weeks ago and the Russian vaccine is now only beginning that,” he said. “The data from the initial trials has not been disclosed, it’s not transparent.”
“This is not a race to be first,” Azar said in a teleconference briefing. “This is using every power of the US government, its economy and its biopharmaceuticals, and harnessing that to deliver a vaccine as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States citizens but also for the people of the world.”
Azar said the US had six vaccines under contract and highlighted the Moderna vaccine which began trials in March. “Never before has a vaccine in the developed world gone from phase one to phase three [in the space of five months],” he said.
Commenting on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier announcement at a UN press briefing, a WHO spokesman said the “pandemic is threatening lives and economies.”
“It’s vital that we apply all public health measures that we know are working, and we need to continue to invest in and accelerate the development of safe and effective treatments and vaccines that will help us reduce disease transmission in the future,” said spokesman Tarik Jasarevic in answer to a question by Anadolu Agency.
“We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities, and discussions are going on with respect to possible pre-qualification of the vaccine,” he noted, adding pre-qualification of any vaccine needs rigorous review and assessment.
He said as soon as the “absolutely essential clinical trial data” is available, national regulatory bodies need to be ready to review the safety and efficacy data before using it.