The Slatest

Putin Says Untested Coronavirus Vaccine Set for Rollout in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits behind a desk during a teleconference.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a teleconference on Tuesday. Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday the country had approved a largely untested vaccine for the coronavirus, which will be part of a widespread voluntary inoculation effort in October. The announcement comes even though the drug developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow has not completed the clinical trial phase of development, meaning it has only been used on a small scale. Russian scientists have also failed to publish any of their scientific research that backs up their claim. That hasn’t stopped Putin from using the drug as a propaganda tool, telling a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, “It works effectively enough, forms a stable immunity and I repeat, it has gone through all necessary tests.”

Perhaps sensing that “effectively enough” wasn’t quite convincing enough, Putin emphasized that one of his daughters had successfully taken the vaccine. “Putin said that his daughter had a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) on the day of the first vaccine injection, and then it dropped to just over 37 degrees (98.6 Fahrenheit) on the following day,” according to the Associated Press. “After the second shot she again had a slight increase in temperature, but then it was all over.”

“Russia’s vaccine uses two doses to deliver different harmless cold viruses, or adenoviruses, that have been engineered to carry into cells the gene for the spiky protein that studs the outside of the coronavirus,” the Washington Post reports. “The approach is also being used by scientists at the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, the Chinese company CanSino Biologics and the University of Oxford in their vaccine candidates.”

To get a sense of how Russia is approaching the global hunt for a vaccine, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the vaccination drive, said the drug will be named “Sputnik,” a throwback to the Cold War space race era. He also said tens of thousands of Russians—including critical workers and teachers—will be given the vaccination this month while it is undergoing the third phase of clinical trials. Russian officials say a state research center in Siberia also has a second vaccine that is close to being ready for use.

The hurried announcement has raised concerns among the global health community and the World Health Organization reiterated that all vaccines should go through the established trial mechanism. In Washington, on the other hand, a certain American president quietly muttered to himself: So you’re telling me there’s a chance.

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