Russia approves experimental Covid-19 vaccine before testing even finishes

11 Aug 2020

Image: © Evgenia Parajanian/

Vladimir Putin claimed Russia is the first to give regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine – but it is still undergoing human testing.

Russia is the first country to grant regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. He claimed the vaccine is safe for human use and has even been given to one of his daughters.

However, alarm bells have been raised as the vaccine has only been tested in humans in the past two months and has yet to complete its final stages of trials.

According to Reuters, Putin said in a televised address today (11 August): “I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity and, I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks.”

The experimental vaccine was developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which said the vaccine is now undergoing Phase 3 human trials. Russia’s deputy prime minister, Tatyana Golikova, said healthcare workers could begin receiving the vaccine candidate by the end of August.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Russia to comply with established vaccine development guidelines and complete all forms of testing before giving any vaccine candidate to the public.

“Sometimes individual researchers claim they have found something, which is of course, as such, great news,” said WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier.

“But between finding or having a clue of maybe having a vaccine that works, and having gone through all the stages, is a big difference.”

‘This is a Pandora’s box’

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that less than 100 people had officially received the experimental Russian vaccine by the beginning of August. This was according to the Association of Clinical Trial Organizations (ACTO), which criticised Russia’s plans in a letter to the country’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, saying widespread use of the vaccine candidate could be dangerous.

Speaking with Bloomberg, ACTO executive director Svetlana Zavidova said: “Why are all corporations following the rules, but Russian ones aren’t? The rules for conducting clinical trials are written in blood. They can’t be violated.

“This is a Pandora’s box and we don’t know what will happen to people injected with an unproven vaccine.”

Russia has one of the highest numbers of reported coronavirus cases in the world, with almost 900,000 confirmed cases and around 15,000 deaths. In addition to the proposed vaccine being distributed in Russia, president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte announced that his country will receive shipments after a deal with Putin.

“When the vaccine arrives, I will have myself injected in public,” Duterte said. “Experiment on me first, that’s fine with me.” The Philippines has one of the highest numbers of reported coronavirus cases in south-east Asia, totalling more than 139,000.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic