Published On: Wed, Aug 12th, 2020

U.S. HHS Secretary Azar casts doubt on Putin’s coronavirus vaccine claim

Taipei, Taiwan — U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is “not a race to be first.”

Azar’s comments during a visit to Taiwan on Wednesday follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that his country was the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine, prompting doubts about the science and safety behind that purported achievement.

But Russian Health Minister Mikhail said Wednesday that accusations that Russia’s vaccine is unsafe are baseless and stem from competition, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, according to the Reuters news service.

Azar said the U.S. is combining the powers of its government, economy and biopharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States’ citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines.”

Taiwan US
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar answers media questions after visiting a mask factory in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on August 12, 2020. 

Chiang Ying-ying / AP

He says the U.S. has secured an advanced manufacturing contract for a vaccine being developed by the company Moderna and has supply agreements with five other firms who have vaccines in the works.

He says four of the six companies under contract have reported testing results showing they produce more antibodies for the virus than people who have survived COVID-19, without severe side effects.

Azar says two companies’ vaccine candidates have entered the third phase of trials while the Russian vaccine is just now embarking on that stage with no information having been disclosed.

He says the U.S. process should enable the production of a “gold-standard, safe and effective vaccine” available in the tens of millions of doses by the end of the year.

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