Not wanting to be outdone by Pfizer, Putin says Russia is about to register a third Covid vaccine

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A screen shows Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the 15th annual end-of-year news conference at the World Trade Centre in Moscow.

Valery Sharifulin

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia is about to register its third vaccine against the coronavirus, according to Russian news agencies.

Putin also said “all” Russian coronavirus vaccines were effective, the RIA news agency reported. He appeared to give no further details about the vaccine or its registration.

He did say that Moscow is ready to cooperate with all other countries on vaccines but warned against the “politicization” of the process.

“I agree that such a vaccine should belong to all mankind,” Putin said during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, according to the Tass news agency. “We are ready to cooperate with all countries, including our SCO partners.”

The comments came a day after U.S.pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech announced that preliminary results from late-stage clinical trials showed their coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those without evidence of prior infection.

The news sent global stock markets soaring and sparked cautious optimism among Western governments.

Pharmaceutical firms, health agencies and vaccine researchers at academic institutions have (often collaboratively) been working at breakneck speed to try to find a coronavirus vaccine.

The news from Pfizer Monday appears to mark a breakthrough, but its vaccine isn’t the only one in development.

Russia was the first country to register and approve a coronavirus vaccine, named “Sputnik V,” in August.

The country has the fifth-highest number of coronavirus infections in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with almost 1.8 million confirmed cases to date.

The announcement of its Covid-19 vaccine in August led to concerns from some members of the international scientific community about the speed of the approval (the vaccine had not started phase three trials) and lack of available data supporting Russian claims for the vaccine’s efficacy and safety (no results from earlier trials had been published).

In September, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the vaccine, published early-stage trial results in The Lancet medical journal, but the reliability of the data was questioned by a group of scientists.

Russia’s vaccine developers now say that stage three clinical trials of the vaccine involving 40,000 volunteers are underway in Russia, and trials have been announced in the United Arab Emirates, India, Venezuela, and Belarus.

In mid-October, Russia announced it had granted regulatory approval to a second coronavirus vaccine, although again in this case, approval came before substantive results had been published and a large-scale phase three trial had begun, Reuters reported.

On Monday, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund which is backing the development of the Sputnik V vaccine, is reported to have said that Russia would publish interim efficacy data clinical trials in November, Sputnik News reported.

On Monday, following Pfizer’s announcement, a representative of Russia’s health ministry said the Sputnik V vaccine was also more than 90% effective, Reuters reported.

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