Azar on Russia vaccine claim: Point is to be 'safe and effective'

Azar on Russia vaccine claim: Point is to be 'safe and effective'
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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday said the U.S. was prioritizing safety and effectiveness in its coronavirus vaccine development after Russia claimed it had developed the world's first COVID-19 vaccine.

Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinFormer GOP lawmakers on endorsing Biden: Trump is no Republican, 'lacks basic self-control' Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Former intelligence agency director Robert Cardillo speaks out against 'erratic' Trump MORE announced Tuesday the country has become the first in the world to grant regulatory approval for a coronavirus vaccine.

“The point is not to be first with a vaccine, the point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective for the American people and the people of the world,” Azar said on ABC when asked about the claim.

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“We need transparent data, and it's got to be phase three data, that shows that a vaccine is safe and effective,” Azar added. 

Russia’s claim of a vaccine has drawn deep skepticism from experts, who said the country appears to be approving the drug based only on early and insufficient data.

“Russia was reported to be behind disinformation campaigns to sow doubts in U.S. about our Covid vaccines; and today’s news that they ‘approved’ a vaccine on the equivalent of phase 1 data may be another effort to stoke doubts or goad U.S. into forcing early action on our vaccines,” tweeted former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.   

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Azar said he thinks the U.S. is on track to have tens of millions of doses by December of a vaccine that has gone through the full three phases of clinical trials.

“We believe that we are on track towards having tens of millions of doses by December of FDA gold standard vaccine, and hundreds of millions of doses as we go into the new year,” Azar said.  

Azar made the comments during a trip to Taiwan. In the interview, he also praised Taiwan for “transparent, open” handling of the coronavirus, adding that in contrast, “China, the People's Republic of China, has not been transparent, has not been collaborative.”