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Russia has dismissed mounting international concern over the safety of its locally developed Covid-19 vaccine as “absolutely groundless”.

On Tuesday, it said a vaccine had been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans.

But experts were quick to raise concerns about the speed of Russia’s work, and a growing list of countries have expressed scepticism.

Scientists in Germany, France, Spain and the US have all urged caution.

“It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that… are absolutely groundless,” Russia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.

He added that the vaccine would be available soon.

“The first packages of the medical vaccine… will be received within the next two weeks, primarily for doctors,” Mr Murashko said.

Russian officials have said they plan to start mass vaccination in October.

The announcement on Tuesday was made by President Vladimir Putin, who said the vaccine had passed all the required checks and his daughter had already been given it.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was in talks with Russian authorities about undertaking a review of the vaccine, which has been named Sputnik-V.

It is not among the organisation’s list of six vaccines that have reached phase three clinical trials, which involve more widespread testing in humans.

What has the reaction been?

The progress Russia says it has made on a coronavirus vaccine has been met with scepticism by health officials and media outlets in the US and Europe.

On Wednesday, Germany’s health minister expressed concern that it had not been properly tested.

“It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions… of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong,” Jens Spahn told local media.

“Based on everything we know… this has not been sufficiently tested,” he added. “It’s not about being first somehow – it’s about having a safe vaccine.” Read more

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