Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, reportedly greeted Russia’s announcement this week that it has approved a coronavirus vaccine with deep skepticism, suggesting it is not safe for widespread use.
“I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) declared during a National Geographic sponsored event scheduled to air on Thursday. “I seriously doubt that they’ve done that.”
“So 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, added, referring to the vaccine candidates in the U.S. “But that’s not the way it works.”
Despite the criticism and scant public information on human trials that allegedly began in May, Putin claimed the Kremlin approved the vaccine for widespread use, drawing skepticism from scientists and public health experts.
Contradicting Putin’s assertions that the vaccine is safe, however, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that is financing the vaccine, noted that it still needs to clear the final part of a three-phase clinical trial process. Putin has the executive authority to make distributing the vaccine legal regardless of its progress in the clinical trial process.
The vaccine failing to pass phase three trials would place its development behind the leading American-made candidate.
The final trials of the Russian candidate, developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, will reportedly begin August 12 cross several countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.
National Geographic pointed out:
Gamaleya has yet to publish any results from human trials, which typically involve three phases to check a drug’s safety, efficacy, and dosage. The institute also has not released any preclinical research involving animal models or experiments with cells raised in petri dishes.
In the United States, there are about a dozen vaccine candidates — including five or six backed by the Trump administration — going into the final part of a three-phase clinical trial process over the next few months, Fauci told U.S. lawmakers at the end of last month.
In a partnership with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), American biotechnology company Moderna is already conducting Phase 3 trials of one of those candidates.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced a $1.5 billion contract with Moderna for 100 million doses of the potential vaccine, marking the sixth such deal reached since May.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.), a United Nations entity, is tracking the development of nearly 170 coronavirus vaccines across the world.
Nearly 30 of those vaccines are already in clinical trials, the U.N. agency revealed.
At the end of July, Fauci told lawmakers the prospect of developing a coronavirus vaccine in record time, as promised by the Trump administration, is no pipe dream.
“There’s never a guarantee that you’re going to get a safe and effective vaccine,” he acknowledged, but added, “We feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.”
“So, I don’t think it’s dreaming … I believe it’s a reality,” Fauci said.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the China-influenced head of the W.H.O., said that there may never be a “silver bullet” for the coronavirus, dashing hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine amid the global rush to discover an effective one.