On Tuesday, Russia claimed that it had developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus, as the pandemic marked another bleak milestone with 20 million infections globally.
President Vladimir Putin said that one of his own daughters had received the inoculation, dubbed “Sputnik” after the pioneering 1950s Soviet satellite.
Western scientists have previously raised concerns about the speed of development of Russian vaccines, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners.
The World Health Organization on Tuesday warned any approval of the Russian vaccine would require rigorous review of data to show its safety and efficiency.
“I know that it is quite effective, that it gives sustainable immunity,” Putin said of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with Moscow’s defence ministry.
Russia hopes to begin production in September and start vaccinating medical staff immediately afterwards.
Some 20 foreign countries have pre-ordered over a billion doses according to Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which helped develop the vaccine.
The race for a vaccine heats up as nations across the globe brace for new outbreaks of the disease even as they try to restart economies battered by months of initial lockdowns to curb the spread.
An AFP tally from official sources showed that by 1100 GMT Tuesday, the number of confirmed infections worldwide passed 20.1 million, having topped 20 million the previous night.
Almost 737,000 deaths had been recorded since the virus first emerged in China late last year and spread globally, with the figure expected to surpass 750,000 within days.