MOSCOW -- Russia's Health Ministry says the first batch of the country's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine has been released for civil distribution.
The ministry said on September 8 that the first batch of the vaccine, developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, passed all necessary quality tests and shipments to regions around Russia will begin in the near future.
The ministry also said that a mass, countrywide COVID-19 vaccination campaign will begin next month following post-registration tests.
Despite a lack of published data, Russia approved the vaccine for domestic use on August 11. President Vladimir Putin said at the time of the announcement that the vaccine provided "sustainable immunity" and that one of his own daughters had been inoculated.
This raised concerns among some scientists that Russia was rushing to use a vaccine without going through the rigorous scientific tests normally conducted on such medicines.
Pharmaceutical companies have called for postponing the new vaccine's registration until the completion of a third phase of clinical trials. More than half of the doctors surveyed by the polling agency Doctor's Manual said they did not trust the new vaccine.
On August 15, the Gamaleya center and Binnopharm pharmaceutical company started producing the vaccine.
Russian authorities have said that they expect the number of vaccines needed to cover Russia's entire population will have been produced within one year.
Russia has recorded just over 1 million cases of the coronavirus, with almost 18,000 deaths.