German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Wednesday said Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine had not been sufficiently tested, adding the aim was to have a safe product rather than just being first to start vaccinating people.
The skepticism was promptly debunked by Russia’s health minister Mikhail Murashko, who insisted the vaccine is safe.
President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing.
Moscow’s decision to grant approval before final trials have been completed has raised concerns among some experts.
“It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions, if not billions, of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong, so I’m very sceptical about what’s going on in Russia,” Spahn told radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
“I would be pleased if we had an initial, good vaccine but based on everything we know – and that’s the fundamental problem, namely that the Russians aren’t telling us much – this has not been sufficiently tested,” he added.
Spahn said it was crucial, even during a pandemic, to carry out proper studies and tests and make the results public to give people confidence in the vaccine.
“It’s not about being first somehow – it’s about having an effective, tested and therefore safe vaccine,” he said when asked about Russia’s vaccine, which will be called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union.
Only about 10% of clinical trials are successful and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.
But the Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko has debunked the skepticisms.
He said on Wednesday allegations that Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine was unsafe were groundless and driven by competition, the Interfax news agency reported.
Putin and other officials have also said it is completely safe. One of Putin’s daughters was reported yesterday to have been inoculated.
And President Duterte of Philippines said he too was ready to take the vaccine.
Russian Government officials have said it will be administered to medical personnel, and then to teachers, on a voluntary basis at the end of this month or in early September.
The manufacturers said the vaccine will be available to the public in January, although another report said the mass roll out will begin in October.