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'WHO in contact with Russia on new COVID-19 vaccine'

Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) is in close contact with Russia regarding a possible pre-qualification of the world's first COVID-19 vaccine, a WHO spokesman said.

"We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are underway regarding a possible pre-qualification of the vaccine by WHO," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said at a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The pre-qualification of any vaccine involves rigorous review and evaluation of all the data required for safety and efficacy" in clinical trials, said Jasarevic, adding that at the WHO level, this process would be the same for any vaccine candidate.

"Each country has national regulatory bodies that approve the use of vaccines or drugs in its territory," he said. "Manufacturers are asking for WHO pre-qualification because it is a kind of seal of quality."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that his country has registered the world's first vaccine against the novel Coronavirus.

Putin said he hoped that the mass production of the vaccine registered in Russia should begin in the near future, and vaccination will be available to everyone in the country voluntarily.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that she expected the production of the vaccine to start at the end of August or the beginning of September and health workers will be the first to be vaccinated.

The Covid-19 vaccine that Russia registered on Tuesday is expected to enter into civilian circulation on January 1, 2021, the media reported, citing the registration certificate.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that teachers and medical workers will be the first to get the Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute and the Russian Defence Ministry, the Tass news agency reported.

"We will begin the stage-by-stage civilian use of the vaccine. First and foremost, we would like to offer vaccination to those who come into contact with infected persons at work. These are medical workers. And also those who are responsible for children's health - teachers," the minister was quoted as saying.

The Russian Health Minister said that two sites - the Gamaleya Research Institute and pharmaceutical company Binnopharm JSC - will be used for producing the vaccine.

The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev, said that the country has received requests for one billion doses of the vaccine.

"We see a great interest abroad towards the Russian vaccine produced by the Gamaleya Research Institute. We have received preliminary requests for the purchase of over 1 billion doses of the vaccine from 20 states," Dmitriev was quoted as saying.

He said that the country is ready to ensure production of over 500 million vaccine doses along with its foreign partners in five countries. Russia is planning to increase its production capacity further, he said, according to a Tass news agency report.

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