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WHO cautions Russia on COVID-19 vaccine “claims are being questioned”

WHO spokesman comments after President Putin says Russia has registered world's first coronavirus vaccine

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GENEVA The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday it is following Russia’s progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, but cautioned that progress in fight against the virus should not compromise on safety.

Commenting on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier announcement that Russia had registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine at a UN press briefing, a WHO spokesman said the “pandemic is threatening lives and economies.”

“It’s vital that we apply all public health measures that we know are working, and we need to continue to invest in and accelerate the development of safe and effective treatments and vaccines that will help us reduce disease transmission in the future,” said spokesman Tarik Jasarevic in answer to a question by Anadolu Agency.

The vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center, has officially been registered with Russia’s Health Ministry, Putin told a meeting of members of the government in Moscow.

“We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities, and discussions are going on with respect to possible pre-qualification of the vaccine,” he noted, adding pre-qualification of any vaccine needs rigorous review and assessment.

He said as soon as the “absolutely essential clinical trial data” is available, national regulatory bodies need to be ready to review the safety and efficacy data before using it.

“We are following the progress in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, and we maintain the draft landscape of candidate vaccines, which is updated every week on our website,” said the spokesman. “WHO lists 25 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 139 in a pre-clinical evaluation.”

Jasarevic said the WHO has its accelerator program seeking to speed up research for an effective vaccine for all countries. “At the same time, we are supporting the building of manufacturing capabilities and buying supplies ahead of time so that we have doses that could be equitably distributed in 2021,” he said.

Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resources Center said Tuesday that the world has 20,113,592 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 737,022 deaths recorded and more than 12 million recoveries. With 895,691 cases, Russia has the world’s fourth-highest COVID-19 case tally.

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