Production of COVID-19 Vaccine Starts in Russia, But Half of Country's Medics Won't Take It

More than half of medics surveyed in Russia have said they do not trust the COVID-19 vaccine touted by President Vladimir Putin as the country announced it had started its widespread production.

Russia's health ministry announced on Saturday that the production of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute outside of Moscow "had begun" with the Tass news agency reporting that 20 countries have asked for the supply of one billion doses.

However it appears that enthusiasm for the vaccine expressed by Putin, who said it had been taken by one of his daughters and offers "sustainable immunity", is not shared across the Russian medical establishment.

Russia vaccine
Russia's biotech company BIOCAD, which is developing a COVID-19 vaccine is shown in this illustrative image. Russia's health ministry says it has started production of the COVID-19 vaccine Russia announced it was the first to develop. OLGA MALTSEVA/Getty Images

In an online survey of more than 3,000 healthcare professionals via the Doctor's Handbook app, 52 percent of medics said they would not take the vaccine.

Of those doubters, nearly two-thirds, or 66 percent, said there was not enough data proving that it was effective, and just under a half, or 48 percent, said it had been developed too quickly.

However a fifth of those who would refuse the inoculation, would still recommend the vaccine, named Sputnik V, to others. Fewer than a quarter of the surveyed medics,—or 24.5 percent—said they would get vaccinated with it.

The survey of 3,040 Russian medical professionals on August 12 and 13, was reported by the RBC news website.

Russia's deputy health minister Oleg Salagay said that he was not surprised by the survey's findings, and that "trust has to be earned over the years."

"Trust should not be confused with an objective assessment of effectiveness and safety. And the results of such an assessment today allow experts to draw a conclusion about the possibility of using the vaccine," he wrote in a post on Telegram.

From the end of August, frontline health workers and teachers in Russia will be the first to get vaccinated with the viral vector vaccine, which is an injection solution based on the adenovirus, or the common cold, and distributed in two doses.

Gamaleya has said the vaccine will give two years of Covid-19 immunity but the speed of its development has raised alarm bells among many experts.

Professor of immunology at Imperial College London, Danny Altmann, said earlier this week that it was "virtually impossible" enough scrutiny on the adverse effects of the vaccine had been undertaken by Russian scientists.

"We have high bar and strict criteria for licensing vaccines after phase three trials, so none of us can fully understand the details in the Russian press releases, because they are not completely transparent in terms of hard data," he told Newsweek.

This graph provided by Statista shows the global spread of the coronavirus.

Countries with most COVID-19 cases
The spread of COVID-19 cases across the globe. STATISTA