Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the top government officials leading the U.S. response to COVID-19, says he “seriously doubts” Russia’s claim to develop a safe and effective vaccine for the disease.
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While Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the vaccination in a statement Tuesday, saying the preventer has already been registered, Fauci says he has not “heard any evidence” that it is safe.
“I hope the Russians have really proven conclusively that the vaccine is safe and effective. I seriously doubt they did it,”; Fauci told a National Geographic panel moderated by ABC’s Deborah Roberts.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund supporting the vaccine called Sputnik V, said on Tuesday that the vaccine had passed stages one and two of three standards, but skeptics questioned whether it had progressed that far.
The third phase, which usually detects side effects as well as measures the breadth of vaccine effectiveness, aims to make the last few months and timeline in Russia seem to have been much shorter.
“Having a vaccine … and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“We have half a dozen or more vaccines, so if we’d like to take the opportunity to hurt a lot of people or give them something that doesn’t work, we can start doing that, you know, next week. “If we wanted to. But that’s not the way it works.”
The US, UK and Canada, which are also vigorously studying and testing several possible vaccines, have accused Russian hackers of trying to steal their Intel with COVID-19 drugs.
Fauci says the cautious U.S. approach opens up the possibility of widespread vaccinations available to Americans by early 2021.
Although vaccines against respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 are generally less effective than those for other diseases, such as measles, Fauci said he would gladly accept one with “at least” 50 percent effectiveness, although it is it is possible for a new drug to be as much as 75 percent effective.
The vaccine, Fauci said, would be a very useful “additional tool” to fight the pandemic worldwide, which has infected over 5 million people in the US and killed over 166,000 others in the past six months.
Americans in every part of the country, however, must follow basic social distance guidelines and wear a mask, he said.
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When the initial doses of the vaccine are ready, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as officials from an independent group, will distribute the initial doses to health care workers caring for individuals with the virus, as well as to the elderly or individuals immunomompromise at higher risk of infection.