Russia Says Countries Have Launched 'War' Against Its Vaccine, Claims a Billion Doses Requested

Some countries have launched an "information war" against the Russian coronavirus vaccine, the director of the country's sovereign wealth fund has said.

Speaking during an online conference, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)—which is backing the vaccine—added the country has already received requests for around a billion doses from various nations across the globe.

"The topic of the vaccine is extremely important for all countries," Dmitriev said during the conference, which was focused on explaining the science behind the preventative. "This type of briefing is very important for us because we do see that a number of countries have opened up an information war against Russia."

"Nonetheless, we see that the majority of countries are curious to learn the extra facts about this vaccine and would like to know how it actually works. The more vaccines we have, the better for the whole of humanity," he said.

Russian authorities and scientists say the vaccine, which has been approved for use by domestic regulators, is safe and induces a significant immune response against COVID-19, based on results from small-scale human trials over the past months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other officials, declared that the country was the first to license a COVID-19 vaccine. However, several western experts have expressed skepticism given that the results of these trials have not yet been publicized. They warn that the vaccine should not be used until the vaccine has passed all internationally recognized phases of clinical testing.

According to Dmitriev, data on the vaccine—dubbed "Sputnik V" in honor of the Soviet satellite that was the first in the world to be launched into space—will be published in an academic journal later this month.

Furthermore, Dmitriev said mass testing of the vaccine—described as a "post-registration clinical trial"—will begin next week. It will involve more than 40,000 volunteers in "full compliance with international best practices." The trial will be randomized and placebo-controlled—the gold standard of human drug testing—and be overseen by a foreign clinical research organization that was not disclosed, the director said.

Russia vaccine
A view of the pharmaceutical factory Binnofarm in the town of Zelenograd outside Moscow on August 12, 2020, where Russia is starting to produce the anti-coronavirus vaccine. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

"That will be a very important trial that will go on in parallel to vaccination [of high-risk groups, such as health workers,]" Dmitriev said.

The RDIF director said Russia is capable of producing around 500 million doses per year, via manufacturing partnerships. Data from the post-registration trial will be provided to the World Health Organization as well as other countries that are considering participating, such as the United Arab Emirates, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

Normally when vaccines are tested, large "Phase III" trials such as this are typically held before a given candidate is approved. However, Russian officials have decided to approve the vaccine early given the nature of the pandemic.

At least four other COVID-19 vaccine candidates around the world have reached this stage, but are yet to be approved by regulators in their own countries.