Coronavirus: Russia to start trials for second COVID-19 vaccine shot

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Post-registration trials of Russia’s second COVID-19 vaccine are expected to start on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said, as authorities urged the population to cancel year-end holiday plans.

Russia in August became the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing.

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It has since developed a second inoculation and President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that it would soon register a third shot against the virus.

In comments published on Wednesday, Golikova said post-registration trials of Russia’s second vaccine, developed by Siberia’s Vector institute, were expected to begin on Sunday.

She added that Russia was planning to produce 500,000 doses of its main Sputnik V vaccine in November, lower than a previous forecast of 800,000 doses given by Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov.

The country’s sovereign wealth fund said on Wednesday that interim trial results for the Sputnik V vaccine had shown it was 92 percent effective at protecting people from COVID-19.

Russia’s results are only the second from a late-stage human trial, following on swiftly from data released on Monday by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, which said their shot was also more than 90 percent effective.

While experts said the Russian data was encouraging, they warned that the results were only based on a small number of trial volunteers who had contracted COVID-19.

Despite Russia’s efforts to develop vaccines, the country remains under strain from a recent surge in cases, reporting a record high of 432 deaths as well as 19,851 new infections on Wednesday.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko called on the population to remain home with their families during New Year holidays, a period in early January when Russians often travel domestically and abroad, TASS news agency reported.

Bars, clubs and restaurants in Moscow, the sprawling capital of nearly 13 million people, will be closed overnight for a two-month period to contain the virus, the authorities said on Tuesday.

The city, which has recorded more than 485,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, will feel its economic effects until May 2021, Russian news agencies quoted Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin as saying.

With 1,836,960 infections, Russia has the world’s fourth largest number of cases behind the US, India and Brazil.

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