BERLIN: German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Wednesday (Aug 12) said Russia's COVID-19 vaccine had not been sufficiently tested, adding the aim was to have a safe product rather than just being first to start vaccinating people.
President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing.
Moscow's decision to grant approval before final trials have been completed has raised concerns among some experts.
"It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions, if not billions, of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong, so I'm very sceptical about what's going on in Russia," Spahn told radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
"I would be pleased if we had an initial, good vaccine but based on everything we know – and that's the fundamental problem, namely that the Russians aren't telling us much – this has not been sufficiently tested," he added.
READ: Alarm among global health experts after Russia's COVID-19 vaccine set to be approved without full trial data
Spahn said it was crucial, even during a pandemic, to carry out proper studies and tests and make the results public to give people confidence in the vaccine.
"It's not about being first somehow – it's about having an effective, tested and therefore safe vaccine," he said when asked about Russia's vaccine, which will be called Sputnik V in homage to the world's first satellite launched by the Soviet Union.
Only about 10 per cent of clinical trials are successful and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.
Putin has dismissed those concerns, saying the vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute, was safe and that it had even been administered to one of his daughters.
"I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks," said Putin on Tuesday.
Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Wednesday also said that allegations that the vaccine was unsafe were groundless and driven by competition, the Interfax news agency reported.
Government officials have said it will be administered to medical personnel, and then to teachers, on a voluntary basis at the end of this month or in early September. Mass roll-out in Russia is expected to start in October.