The vaccine, developed at by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, will first become available to medical workers, teachers and at-risk groups. Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that funded the vaccine effort, told reporters that tens of thousands of volunteers will receive vaccinations in the coming months, according to The Associated Press.
Experts even in Russia greeted the news with some skepticism, since the vaccine has not gone through a Phase 3 clinical trial in which its safety and effectiveness is evaluated among a large population with a placebo control group.
NPR reports that the executive director of the Moscow-based Association of Clinical Trials Organizations (ACTO) described the situation as a “Pandora’s Box.”
Danny Altmann, an immunology professor at Imperial College London, told the Science Media Centre: “”The bar is necessarily set very high for criteria that must be satisfied for approval after Phase 3 clinical trials. The collateral damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably. I hope these criteria have been followed. We are all in this together.”
It’s more important to have a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine than to be first out of the gate with one, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar when asked about the Russian vaccine by reporters while he was visiting Taiwan.