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The first coronavirus vaccine is here, but Dr. Fauci doubts that it works

Published Aug 12th, 2020 10:52AM EDT
Coronavirus vaccine
Image: Leigh Prather/Adobe

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  • Russia approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine this week, but Dr. Anthony Fauci “seriously doubts” that the vaccine has been proven safe or effective.
  • As Fauci notes, there’s a difference between having a vaccine and “proving that a vaccine is safe and effective,” which Russia has yet to do with its Sputnik V vaccine.
  • Vaccine experts say that it’s unlikely a safe vaccine will be ready for the public this year.

Russia became the first country to approve a vaccine for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, but that approval came with a major caveat. While Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Gamaleya Institute’s Sputnik V vaccine “has proven efficient and forms a stable immunity,” the country failed to provide any evidence that it actually works. In fact, late-stage clinical trials for the vaccine candidate had yet to even begin when the announcement was made. As such, Dr. Anthony Fauci unsurprisingly has serious doubts that Sputnik V is safe or effective.

The top infectious disease expert in the US, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently spoke with Deborah Roberts of ABC News during a panel discussion set to air on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET. When asked about the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Fauci made his opinion clear.

“I hope that the Russians have actually, definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Fauci told Roberts during the virtual discussion. “I seriously doubt that they’ve done that.”

Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that paid for the development of Sputnik V, says that “tens of thousands of volunteers” will be inoculated with the untested vaccine in the coming months, and claims the vaccine will be available on a “massive scale” by October, despite the lack of data.

“Having a vaccine, Deborah, and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things,” Fauci said, and added that if the US “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.”

Recently, President Donald Trump has been suggesting that a vaccine could be readily available by election day, but even with several vaccines having already entered Phase 3 trials (which Russia had yet to even start for Sputnik V as of Tuesday), vaccine experts think November is entirely too early for any of the current candidates to be appropriately vetted. “Maybe by Inauguration Day [January 20th, 2021] we might have a glimmer of whether the vaccine is working and be able to assess its safety,” said Baylor College of Medicine vaccinologist Dr. Peter Hotez.

If you want to watch the full panel discussion, which will feature Dr. Fauci and Washington, DC mayor Muriel Bowser, among others, visit on Thursday, August 13th at 1:00 PM ET.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.