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Russia to start Covid-19 vaccine trials

Moscow: Mass testing of Russia’s first potential Covid-19 vaccine to get domestic regulatory approval will involve more than 40,000 people and will be overseen by a foreign research body when it starts next week, backers of the project said on Thursday.

These were the first details on the shape and size of the upcoming late-stage trial of the vaccine given by its developers, who are aiming to allay concerns among some scientists about the lack of data provided by Russia so far, Reuters reported.

The vaccine, called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has been hailed as safe and effective by Russian authorities and scientists following two months of small-scale human trials, the results of which have not been made public yet.

But Western experts have been more skeptical, warning against its use until all internationally approved testing and regulatory steps have been seen to be taken and proved a success.

“A range of countries is running an information war against the Russian vaccine,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that is backing the vaccine, told a briefing.

The vaccine data will be published in an academic journal later this month, he said.

Russia has received requests for up to a billion doses of the vaccine from around the world and has capacity to produce 500 million doses per year via manufacturing partnerships, he said.

A director at Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, said 40,000 people would be involved in the mass testing at more than 45 medical centers around Russia.

The data is being provided to the WHO, Dmitriev said, and to several countries that are considering participating in the late-stage trial, including the UAE, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

Sputnik V has already received approval from domestic regulators, leading President Vladimir Putin and other officials to name Russia the first country to license a Covid-19 vaccine.

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