Russia claims to have won the COVID-19 vaccine race—but experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have their doubts about whether the vaccine will be safe or effective. In a National Geographic panel discussion set to air in full Thursday, Fauci told moderator Deborah Roberts that he has deep misgivings about Russia's "Sputnik V" vaccine, which Vladimir Putin says "works quite effectively" and has "passed all the needed checks," ABC reports. "I hope that the Russians have actually, definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective," Fauci said. "I seriously doubt that they've done that." The Russian vaccine has undergone less than 2 months of testing on humans and, highly unusually, was approved by authorities before the start of widespread Phase 3 trials on thousands of people.
"Having a vaccine ... and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things," Fauci said. He said the US is working on at least half a dozen vaccines, and "if we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people, or giving them something that doesn't work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that's not the way it works." Health Secretary Alex Azar echoed Fauci's remarks during a visit to Taiwan Wednesday, CBS News reports. He said that while vaccine development shouldn't be "race to be first," the US aims to have a "gold-standard, safe, and effective vaccine" widely available by the end of the year. (More coronavirus vaccine stories.)