Study: Russia's Sputnik V vaccine appears safe, effective

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 file photo, a medical worker prepares a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, Russia. Russian scientists say the country's Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19, according to early results of an advanced study published on Tuesday Feb. 2, 2021, in a British medical journal. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

MOSCOW – Russian scientists say the country's Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19, according to early results of an advanced study published Tuesday in a British medical journal.

The news is a boost for the vaccine, which governments around the world increasingly are purchasing in the race to stop the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers said that based on a fall trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the vaccine is about 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. But it is unclear if Sputnik V can stop transmission. The study was published online Tuesday in The Lancet.

Scientists not linked to the research acknowledged that the speed at which the vaccine was made and rolled out had brought criticism of the Russian effort's “unseemly haste, corner cutting and an absence of transparency.”

“But the outcome reported here is clear,” British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary. “Another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of COVID-19."

The vaccine was approved by the Russian government with much fanfare on Aug. 11. President Vladimir Putin personally broke the news on national television and said one of his daughters had already received it. At the time, the vaccine had only been tested in several dozen people, and the move elicited criticism from experts both at home and abroad.

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the development of the shot, called the study in The Lancet “check and mate to the critics of the Russian vaccine.”

“Russia was right from the very beginning,” he said.