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Russian Military Touts Covid-19 Vaccine, Though Tests Incomplete

A Covid-19 vaccine developed with the Russian Defense Ministry completed Phase 2 trials, leading First Deputy Defense Minister Ruslan Tsalikov to say the first domestic inoculation is ready for use.

A second group of volunteers ended Phase 2 trials Monday, with everyone developing immunity from the coronavirus and feeling fine, Tsalikov said in an interview with Argumenty i Fakty newspaper published Tuesday. He didn’t say when Phase 3 large-scale trials would take place or when production of the vaccine may begin.

The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tests of the vaccine are continuing, the Interfax news service reported, citing the Health Ministry in response to the statement.

“They’re all getting ahead of themselves,” said Sergei Netesov, a former executive at Vector, a state-run virology center in Novosibirsk that’s also working on an inoculation. “The third phase has not started yet, or even been announced. The reason they’re in such a rush is completely incomprehensible.”

The army is developing a vaccine with the state-run Gamaleya Institute in Moscow and the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Phase 3 trials, which will include thousands of people in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are scheduled to begin Aug. 3 and distribution of the vaccine could start as early as September, RDIF’s head Kirill Dmitriev said last week.

Russia could make 30 million doses domestically in 2020, and 170 million abroad, with five countries expressing interest in producing the vaccine and others willing to produce it, according to Dmitriev.

Russia, which has the fourth-most coronavirus cases in the world, has accelerated the testing process and is funding production even before the vaccine is known to work, amid a global race to find defenses against the deadly pandemic that has wreaked economic havoc. In developed economies, Phase 3 trials typically take months to run in order to better understand a drug’s effectiveness.

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