Top Russian Official Calls Out U.S. Hypocrisy for Considering Fast-Tracking Coronavirus Vaccine

Russia has accused the West of hypocrisy amid discussions of fast-tracking the roll-out of potential coronavirus vaccines.

On Monday, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund, said the organization "notes the desire of the U.S. and British authorities to follow the fast-track registration procedure for coronavirus vaccines that has been applied in the Russian Federation."

Russia approved its coronavirus vaccine in mid-August, prompting concern that it had not passed efficacy and safety tests. Among those to express worry was top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci who said he "seriously doubts" Russia's vaccine is ready to be widely used.

Dmitriev appeared to be referring to U.S. Food and Drug Administration head Dr. Stephen Hahn telling the Financial Times on Sunday that the FDA would issue an emergency use authorisation for a coronavirus vaccine before Phase Three clinical trials were finished, if officials thought the benefits outweighed the risks.

Last week, the FDA controversially issued an emergency use authorization—which has lower standards than an approval—for convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients.

This followed the U.K. government's announcement that it would enable its Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to temporarily authorize the use of a coronavirus vaccine if it met safety and quality standards.

Dmitriev said the plans in the U.S. and U.K. "hereby exactly following the example of Russia."

He said the West was "shocked by Russia's success and had to go through four stages of accepting the inevitable: denial, anger, depression, and ultimately acceptance.

"Recent statements show that some of our Western partners have already passed the stage of depression and it has now been accepted that Russia's approach is the correct one."

Asked to respond to Dmitriev's remarks, a spokesperson for the U.K. government told Newsweek via email it is "at the forefront of efforts to find a successful, safe and effective vaccine to bring the quickest possible end to the pandemic and the economic damage it inflicts. We're making remarkable progress, with recent results of Oxford University's Phase I/II clinical trials indicating no early safety concerns. We will launch human clinical studies of the GSK and Sanofi vaccine candidate beginning next month, followed by a Phase 3 study in December.

"We are closely monitoring efforts outside the U.K. as well as those in the U.K. It is vital that vaccines in development adhere to international medical and scientific standards to ensure safety."

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

At the time of Russia's announcement, professor Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute in the U.K. said in a statement: "This is a reckless and foolish decision. Mass vaccination with an improperly tested vaccine is unethical.

"Any problem with the Russian vaccination campaign would be disastrous both through its negative effects on health, but also because it would further set back the acceptance of vaccines in the population."

Almost 200 coronavirus vaccines are under development around the world, including 33 that are in clinical trials according to the World Health Organization. On Monday, AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine became the third to start Phase 3 trials in the U.S.

Dmitriev's remarks came the day that a global poll showed more than a quarter (26 percent) of people are not willing to get a coronavirus vaccine, while 74 percent said they would.

People were most likely to say they intended to get a vaccine in China, Brazil, Australia and India, and least likely in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and France.

The World Economic Forum/Ipsos survey conducted between July 24 and August 7, 2020, involved 19,519 adults from 27 countries.

Arnaud Bernaert, head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare platform at the World Economic Forum said in a statement: "The 26 percent shortfall in vaccine confidence is significant enough to compromise the effectiveness of rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine."

This article has been updated with comment from a U.K. government spokesperson.

vaccine, getty
A stock image shows a scientist holding a vial. Researchers around the world are working to develop vaccines against the coronavirus. Getty