Top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said he hopes, but "seriously doubts," that Russia has developed a safe and effective vaccine that is ready for use.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this week that the country approved of the world's first coronavirus vaccine — months before a vaccine is expected to be available globally. Russia's health ministry intends on mass producing the vaccine this coming fall.
However, there is a lack of widespread testing to prove the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, while the US has a number of vaccines in development, "if we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people or giving them something that doesn't work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to."
"But that's not the way it works," the infectious disease expert said.
"So, I hope — but I haven't heard any evidence to make me feel that's the case — I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective," Fauci continued, adding that he "seriously doubt[s] that they've done that."
He emphasized the difference between a "safe" and "effective" vaccine, saying that he thinks people who question why Americans aren't at the forefront of receiving a coronavirus vaccine when countries like Russia and China are claiming to have developed one.
"Well, because we have a way of doing things in this country that we care about safety and we care about efficacy," Fauci said.
Alongside Fauci, medical experts have also expressed concern about the safety of the vaccine, including a prominent pharmaceutical organization in Russia, the Association of Clinical Trials.
"This is a new vaccine, it has not yet completed testing with even hundreds of people, not to mention several thousand participants in the study in phase III," the organization wrote in an open letter to the Russian health ministry.
Fauci made his remarks during an exclusive conversation with National Geographic as part of their event, "Stopping Pandemics," which is set to air on Thursday.
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