Russia Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Possible by Start of 2021, Science Chief Says

Russia says it will have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to carry out a mass vaccination by the start of 2021. Alexander Sergeyev, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said it could have tens of millions of doses ready by this time, as long as trials prove successful and safe over the next six months.

Scientists across the world are currently working on vaccines to protect against COVID-19. While there are over 140 in the earliest stages of testing, six have moved into phase 3 trials, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. In this phase, they are tested on thousands of humans to assess their safety and effectiveness.

Earlier this month, Defense Ministry officials in Russia announced successful trials of its own vaccine, finding the drug was "safe and well tolerated" by 18 volunteers, the state news agency Tass reported. Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, said they plan to give the vaccine to health workers in mid-August, while Phase 3 trials are still being completed. He also said scaling and production will begin in parallel: "As a result of all this, we will get large-scale production and large-scale application."

Russia is one of the world's worst-affected countries for COVID-19 case numbers. According to the Johns Hopkins dashboard, there have been over 800,000 cases and almost 13,500 deaths. Only the U.S., Brazil and India have more confirmed cases.

Sergeyev told Tass that Russia is hoping to produce enough doses by the start of next year to carry out a mass vaccination. "When we speak about mass vaccination of the population, about tens and hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, obviously, it will take time," he said. "I would say that if everything is alright, as we plan and as big companies in other countries plan, it will probably be possible at the beginning of next year."

He said developing a vaccine takes time and in order to ensure it works, clinical tests need to be carried out for at least six months, but reiterated that some people will be able to get the vaccine sooner.

"Naturally, [in] terms of some mobilization decisions, when it is necessary to do something quickly to protect risk groups, to protect doctors working in the so-called red zone, work can [be] accelerated," Sergeyev said.

In the U.S., Moderna is set to begin the next stage of testing for its COVID-19 vaccine, with the aim of recruiting 30,000 people at sites across the country. On Monday, President Donald Trump also announced a $265 million contract with the Fujifilm-Texas A&M Innovation Center to "dramatically expand their vaccine manufacturing capacity."

This was part of the administration's Operation Warp Speed—a partnership that aims to provide 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January, 2021. So far this has included a $1.95 billion agreement with Pfizer, a $1.6 billion investment in Novavax, a $1.2 billion contract with AstraZeneca, a $483 million contract with Moderna and a $465 million contract with Janssen.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the current development of COVID-19 virus vaccines around the world.

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A graph showing the stages of development for respective COVID-19 vaccines. Statista