Trump on Russia’s approved ‘Sputnik V’ coronavirus vaccine: ‘We hope it works’

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 14, 2020.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

President Donald Trump said Friday that he hopes Russia‘s recently approved vaccine for the coronavirus works as scientists and public health officials worry whether it’s safe.

“We don’t know much about it. We hope it works, we do, we hope it works,” Trump said during a White House press conference. “They’ve cut off certain trials and we feel it’s just important to go through the process.”

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russian health officials approved what he said is the first coronavirus vaccine in the world, adding that one of his daughters has already taken it. Clinical trials of the vaccine have been completed in less than two months and phase three trials are set to begin, even as Russia lays out plans for a “massive release” to the public.

Scientists and public health officials were immediately skeptical, saying the potential vaccine, named Sputnik V, still needs critical testing to determine whether it’s safe and effective. They also worried it could place pressure on the U.S. to approve a vaccine before it is ready.

“I think virtually every vaccine expert in the world looking at this has been quite concerned whether this was a wise decision. Some have called this Russian roulette,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, told reporters on Thursday.

During the same press briefing Friday, Trump said he’s been asked whether he would take one of the vaccines being developed in partnership with the U.S. government. Some polls have suggested many Americans would be hesitant about taking a potential Covid-19 vaccine even after it goes through the U.S. regulatory approval process.

He said he would take it, adding, “I’d go first or last. I’ll do whatever they want me to.”

If a vaccine gets approved in the U.S., Trump said it should go to the elderly or those most vulnerable people first, though he added he would rely on a doctor’s expertise for that decision.

“We’re actually making a list right now. Mostly nursing homes, retirement centers,” he said. 

U.S. health officials expect to find a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021. Trump said the vaccines are “very advanced” and the U.S. should be announcing “something in the not too distant future.”

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