Russia is boasting that it is about to become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with mass vaccinations planned as early as October using shots that are yet to complete clinical trials—and scientists worldwide are sounding the alarm that the headlong rush could backfire. Moscow sees a Sputnik-like propaganda victory, recalling the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957. But the experimental COVID-19 shots began first-in-human testing on a few dozen people less than two months ago, and there’s no published scientific evidence yet backing Russia’s late entry to the global vaccine race, much less explaining why it should be considered a front-runner, the AP reports.
"I’m worried that Russia is cutting corners so that the vaccine that will come out may be not just ineffective, but also unsafe," said Lawrence Gostin, a global public health law expert at Georgetown University. "It doesn’t work that way. ... Trials come first. That’s really important." According to Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund, a vaccine may be approved in days, before scientists complete what’s called a Phase 3 study. That final-stage study, usually involving tens of thousands of people, is the only way to prove if an experimental vaccine is safe and really works. Questions about this vaccine candidate come after the US, Britain, and Canada last month accused Russia of using hackers to steal vaccine research from Western labs.