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Russia says it has a Covid-19 vaccine as global cases top 20 million

RUSSIA became the first country to register a Covid-19 vaccine today as global cases hit 20 million.

President Vladimir Putin said that the vaccine gives lasting immunity — the Health Ministry claimed for two years — and had undergone necessary tests. His own daughter had been inoculated, he said, and the country will roll out vaccinations for medical workers, teachers and other at-risk groups from this month.

Russia sped up vaccine trials in response to Covid-19, but some scientists have cautioned that the absence of “phase 3” trials, which last for months and involve thousands of people, could mean the vaccine is no’t as safe or effective as its developers currently believe.

The Gamaleya Institute, whose scientists have developed it, say it uses strains of adenovirus, a virus that usually causes the common cold, to trigger an immune response.

All members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) except Britain and the United States, which has now indicated it is withdrawing from the body, have pledged to share Covid-19 vaccines as a “global resource,” but it is unclear how widely the Russian vaccine will be adopted as it does not figure on the WHO’s list of six vaccines that have reached phase-3 trials. Over 100 more are being developed.

The global coronavirus crisis continues to worsen. John Hopkins University placed the official number of cases at more than 20 million today, meaning the number has doubled in 45 days.

The US, which exceeded five million cases this week, India and Brazil account for almost two thirds of the global total. More people have died from Covid-19 in the US than anywhere else, with 163,000 fatal cases out of a global total of 736,191.

Yet these tallies are believed to be a serious underestimate given the lack of mass testing in most countries. In Mexico, where more than 50,000 have officially died from the virus, 47 per cent of all tests have been positive, indicating that only the most serious cases are being tested at all.

The number of new cases is still accelerating in India and is high, at over 50,000 a day, in the US. Countries that had successfully eliminated the virus, including Vietnam and New Zealand, are now reporting new cases.

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