Russia starts production of Covid-19 vaccine

Moscow says the vaccine will be introduced by the end of August

epa08600510 A handout photo made available by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) shows a scientist of Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology working on the production of a new two-vector COVID-19 vaccine in Moscow, Russia, 06 August 2020 (issued 13 August 2020). Russia registered the new called Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus Sars-Cov-2 and opens the stage of its massive testing.  EPA/RDIF HANDOUT NO RESTRICTIONS, ALLOW TO USE IN SOCIAL NETWORK HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Russia has started manufacturing its vaccine for Covid-19, the health ministry said on Saturday.

"The first batch of the novel coronavirus vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute has been produced," the health ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

The vaccine, the first for the coronavirus to go into production, will be introduced by the end of August, officials said.

Russia has the the world's fourth-highest caseload of Covid-19, with 5,061 news cases reported on Saturday taking its nationwide tally to 917,884.

Its coronavirus crisis response centre said 119 people died from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 15,617. It added that 729,411 people recovered in the same period.

Russia said on Wednesday it would roll out the world's first Covid-19 vaccine within two weeks, rejecting the concerns of international experts who said it should not have been approved before completing large-scale trials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was safe and that one of his own daughters had been inoculated, even though clinical trials are not yet complete and final stage testing involving more than 2,000 people only started in the past week.

The head of the Gamelaya Institute, Alexander Gintsburg, told the Tass state news agency on Saturday that volunteers taking part in the final stage testing would have two inoculations.

Russia has said that industrial production is expected from September and that it plans to manufacture 5 million doses per month by December or January.

The vaccine is called "Sputnik V" after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957.

Vietnam has applied to buy the Russian vaccine, state television reported on Friday, as it fights a new outbreak after going several months with no local cases.

"In the meantime, Vietnam will continue to develop its own Covid-19 vaccine," state broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) said, citing the ministry of health.

Vietnam has signed up for between 50 million and 150 million doses of the vaccine, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. Some will be a donation from Russia, Tuoi Tre said, and Vietnam will pay for the rest.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has said the vaccine would first be made available to medics and would later be available to all Russians on a voluntary basis.