Acting with unnatural and unsafe haste, Russia on Saturday announced its intent to register the world's first COVID-19 approved for public use on August 10, and for mass vaccinations to begin in October. This schedule will make Russia the first country in the world to deploy a COVID-19 vaccine for public use.
The sudden Russian announcement comes only a week after the intelligence agencies of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States accused Russian-supported hackers of the "Cozy Bear" group of successfully stealing research related to vaccines and other medicines for curing COVID-19 being developed in their countries.
The reemergence of this notorious hacker group was revealed simultaneously by security services in all three countries. These are the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in Canada, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the U.K. and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
The new Russian vaccine is an adenovirus-based vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, a research facility in Moscow, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Russian state media said the vaccine might be approved for civilian use within three to seven days of registration by regulators.
The vaccine might receive approval for public use by August 15 or 16. Russia said its new vaccine has already been tested on Russia's rich and political elite, who received it as early as April. The first five volunteers not included in this group were inoculated on July 27.
Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko said doctors, frontline medical workers and teachers will be the first to receive the vaccine. Various sources in Russia quoted by Western media affirm the vaccine will be approved by Russian regulators within this month.
Murashko said the Gamaleya Research Institute had finished clinical trials of the vaccine. Paperwork to register the new vaccine is now being prepared.
"We plan wider vaccinations for October," said Murashko.
Last month, Russian scientists said early-stage trials of the vaccine had been completed. They claimed the results were a success. Russia's plan seems to be to administer the vaccine in August while simultaneously conducting phase three clinical trials -- a risky move.
Murashko said only 800 people will take part in phase three trials. He also said production of the vaccine will begin while phase three trials are ongoing. This move will see "large-scale production and large-scale application.
Western scientists, however, don't know much about this hastily produced vaccine and have strong doubts about its safety and efficacy. Russia has offered no proof the vaccine has surmounted the strict and lengthy three-stage clinical trial process mandatory in the West before any drug is sold to the public.
Russian officials, however, claim key data about the vaccine and its trials will be available for review and publication sometime this month.
On July 29, Russia claimed at least 20 countries had contacted it and shown interest in the Russian vaccine. Russia said it can produce 30 million doses domestically this year and 170 million abroad.
On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said he hoped Russia and China were "actually testing the vaccine" before administering it to their citizens.
Russia has the world's fourth largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the eighth largest number of deaths, as of July 31, according to Worldometer data. Its total cases stood at 845,000 while total deaths came to more than 14,000. Total world cases amounted to 18.0 million while total deaths stood at 688,000.