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Dr. Fauci Just Shared Alarming News About the Russian Vaccine

Russia’s claim to have a vaccine ready doesn’t sit will with out nation’s top infectious disease expert.
An asian woman in a protective suit and mask holds an injection syringe and vaccine

The headline this week was the one we've all been waiting for: someone invented a coronavirus vaccine. However, the news came with some big caveats. "In a startling and confusing move, Russia claimed today it had approved the world's first COVID-19 vaccine, as the nation's Ministry of Health issued what's called a registration certificate for a vaccine candidate," reports Science Magazine. "We have to be grateful to those who have taken this first, very important step, very important for Russia and for the entire world," Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin, said in a statement released by the Kremlin. He also added one of his daughters had taken the shot.

Just one problem: The vaccine "has been tested in just 76 people"—far, far less than is standard for scientific testing.

This has many experts baffled, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He spoke at the Stopping Pandemics event, to be streamed online Thursday, about the issue.

"I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective," Fauci said to ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, the moderator. "I seriously doubt that they've done that….We have half a dozen or more vaccines," he continued. "So 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."

"This is Not a Race to Be First"

Many countries are hurrying to develop the first effective COVID-19 vaccine. "Russia has hinted all summer that it's progressing quickly on its vaccine candidate, which is named Sputnik V after the nation's groundbreaking satellite launched in 1960," reports National Geographic. "In May, the director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, where the vaccine is being developed, said he and other researchers had begun testing the drug on themselves before the first phase of human trials began with 76 subjects a month later. But Gamaleya has yet to publish any results from human trials," they continue, "which typically involve three phases to check a drug's safety, efficacy, and dosage."

However, in American, "We have a way of doing things in this country that we care about safety and we care about efficacy," Fauci said. Meanwhile, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar says this is "not a race to be first."

In the talk, Fauci also said people "terribly harass my wife and my children with phone calls….It seems inconceivable … that when you're trying to promote public health principles to save people's lives and keep them healthy, that there's such divisiveness in the country that that's interpreted to be so far from your own way of thinking that you actually want to threaten the person."

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

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