Record Coronavirus Cases in Russia as It Approves Second Vaccine

MOSCOW (Reuters) -
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Presidium of the State Council, via a video conference call in Sochi, Russia. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters).

Russia has granted regulatory approval to a second COVID-19 vaccine, according to its register of authorized medicines.

A delighted President Vladimir Putin announced the news at a government meeting on Wednesday.

The jab was developed by the Vector Institute in Siberia and completed early-stage human trials last month. However, results have not been published yet and a large-scale trial, known as Phase III, has not yet begun.

“We need to increase production of the first and second vaccine,” Putin said in comments broadcast on state media. “We are continuing to cooperate with our foreign partners and will promote our vaccine abroad.”

The peptide-based vaccine, named EpiVacCorona, is the second to be licensed for use in Russia. There has been a placebo-controlled trial on 100 volunteers between ages 18 and 60 in Novosibirsk.

A shot developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, Sputnik V, was licensed for domestic use in August.

That vaccine, based on an adenovirus vector, was also registered before Phase III trials. A trial involving 40,000 participants is now underway in Moscow.

A large-scale human trial of EpiVacCorona is likely to begin in November or December, the TASS news agency cited the consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, which oversees the institute, as saying this month.

The trial is expected to involve 30,000 volunteers, of whom the first 5,000 will be residents of Siberia, according to the Interfax news agency.

Hundreds of people in professions that put them at high risk of coronavirus infection have now also received the Gamaleya jab, according to the Health Ministry, but the vaccine is not yet in general use.

Since the start of the pandemic, Russia has recorded more than 1,340,000 infections, fourth in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil.

Like many countries in Europe, Russia has seen a sharp resurgence in coronavirus infections as cold weather has returned. Yet the authorities have so far been reluctant to return to lockdown measures.

“In our opinion, the situation is manageable and does not require the introduction of restrictions on the economy,” Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said at a government meeting headed by Putin.

Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said on Wednesday it had recorded 14,231 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the most since the pandemic began. It recorded 239 deaths, bringing the death toll to 23,205. More than 4,500 of the new cases were in the capital Moscow, the hardest hit part of the country.

Schools in the capital have been shut for the past two weeks to limit the spread of the virus. Sergei Sobyanin, the city’s mayor, said primary school pupils would return to class, but older children would now have all lessons online.

“The decisions that we have made today are not easy but are simply necessary taking into account both the epidemiological situation and the need for schoolchildren to receive a quality education,” he wrote on his website.