Russia offered to help the US secure its coronavirus vaccine, but the Americans turned it down, CNN reported Thursday.
Russia this week became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, known as Sputnik V.
But experts say the development was rushed, test data and methodologies are being kept secret, and truncated testing may have missed detrimental side effects.
Russian officials told CNN they offered the US help, and access to the Sputnik V vaccine, but were rebuffed.
One US public-health official told CNN: “There’s no way in hell the US tries this [Russian vaccine] on monkeys, let alone people.”
The US has contributed funding to several vaccine projects as part of Operation Warp Speed, a plan to have 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine available by January.
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Russia offered to lend a hand to US efforts to access or develop a coronavirus vaccine, but the Americans refused it, according to a Thursday report by CNN.
Russia announced on Tuesday that it had approved its Sputnik V vaccine from the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute.
Sputnik V’s development has been shrouded in secrecy, and those working on it have been criticized for taking shortcuts to please the Kremlin, which wants to declare victory in the global COVID-19 vaccine race.
The vaccine was approved before it went through phase 3 trials, which are deemed essential to ensuring the safety of a drug. Its early-trial results have also not undergone peer review, and the methodology and results are still a secret, as Business Insider’s Susie Neilson has reported.
Nonetheless, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the vaccine “passed all the needed checks” and that one of his daughters had been inoculated.
Russian officials told CNN they offered the US access to the vaccine but found that the “US is not currently open” to the idea.
Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White House press briefing in April.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
“There is a general sense of mistrust of Russia on the American side, and we believe that technologies — including vaccine, testing, and treatments — are not being adopted in US because of that mistrust,” an unnamed senior Russian official told CNN.
On the other side, one US public-health official told CNN: “There’s no way in hell the US tries this [Russian vaccine] on monkeys, let alone people.”
Scientists working on Sputnik V were also criticized by the medical community after they said they had injected themselves with the prototype to speed up the process.
Russia’s Association of Clinical Research Organizations said the step was a “crude violation of the very foundations of clinical research, Russian law, and universally accepted international regulations.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, also expressed serious doubts this week that the Russian vaccine was safe or effective.
Medical workers in protective gear preparing to draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow on July 15.
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File
The US government is working with and has contributed funding to several vaccine projects as part of Operation Warp Speed, a private-public partnership intended to make 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine available by January. None of the funded projects have been formally approved yet.
“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,” Fauci said.
Jens Spahn, the German health minister, said on Wednesday that he considered the Russian vaccine dangerous because it could cause the public to doubt even safe vaccines should problems emerge.
“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 said.
A large number of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in Russia have banded together to ask the health ministry to delay the registration of the vaccine until phrase 3 trials are concluded.
A score of countries, however, including the Philippines and Venezuela, have already agreed to partner with Russia to get access to Sputnik V.
The state-run TASS news agency said Russia hoped to start mass producing Sputnik V by late August or early September.
“If our vaccine proves to be one of the most effective, questions will be asked why the US did not explore this option any deeper, why politics got in way of access to a vaccine,” a senior Russian official told CNN.
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