Covid-19: Russia, WHO heads for crisis as Kremlin ready to roll-out vaccine in stage 1 trial

August 4, 2020
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The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged Russia to follow the established guidelines for producing safe and effective vaccines after Moscow announced plans to start swiftly producing COVID-19 jabs.

As Russia declared Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine in September and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year, the World Health Organisation is insisting there’s no point jumping the guns.

Russian officials claimed that a vaccine candidate trialled by the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development and is about to pass state registration.

“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” Industry Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by state news agency TASS.

But WHO stressed that all vaccine candidates should go through the full stages of testing before being rolled out.

The Gamaleya candidate, which is among the 26 being tested on humans, is listed as being in Phase 1.

“There are established practices and there are guidelines out,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva.

“Any vaccine…(or medicine) for this purpose should be, of course, going through all the various trials and tests before being licenced for roll-out,” he said.

“Sometimes individual researchers claim they have found something, which is of course, as such, great news.

“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.”

The world’s health body has found itself at war with US President Donald Trump and others over chloroquine efficacy in treating the viral infection. And big pharms in the West have been racing ahead of each other to produce one drug or vaccine.

Scientists in the West have raised concerns about the speed of development of Russian vaccines, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners after coming under pressure from the authorities to deliver.

The WHO’s overview of COVID-19 candidate vaccines, published on Friday, lists 26 candidates in clinical evaluation — of which six have progressed as far as wider Phase 3 levels of testing.

No fewer than 139 candidates worldwide were listed as being in pre-clinical evaluation.

Lindmeier said the WHO had not been officially notified of any Russian vaccine on the verge of being deployed.

“If there was anything official, then our colleagues in the European office would definitely look into this,” the spokesman said.

“In general terms, there are a set of guidance and regulations, rules, how to deal with safe development of a vaccine.

“These should be definitely followed in order to make sure that we know what the vaccine is working against, who it can help and, of course, also if it has any negative side effects.”

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