Russia has defended its ability to produce a COVID-19 vaccine so quickly, saying that it has been working on the drug for the past six years and expects to deliver the vaccine to the public by the end 2020, CNBC reported.

Russia, which became the first country to have an approved vaccine to treat COVID-19,  has drawn skepticism about whether the vaccine is safe and effective based on its development in less than two months.  The country announced the vaccine Tuesday. 

“Western colleagues, who can sense the competitive advantage of the Russian drug, are trying to express some opinions that are completely unjustified in our view,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said in a briefing on Wednesday, via Bloomberg. “This vaccine is a platform that is already well-known and studied.”

While the vaccine is approved, it still needs to undergo Phase 3 clinical trials, but the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has said it expects to deliver it to foreign markets in September with over 1 billion doses of the vaccine requested from some 20 countries, CNBC said. Russia also will reportedly begin inoculations in August before it completes clinical testing.

“Our point to the world is that we have this technology, it can be available in your country in November/December if we work well with your regulator ... People who are very skeptical will not have this vaccine and we wish them good luck in developing theirs,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of RDIF told the news outlet.

Russia said that the development of the COVID-19 vaccine was reportedly taken from its work, developing a vaccine for Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). However, the World Health Organization has said there is no vaccine to treat MERS available, but several are in development. An Ebola vaccine was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2019.

“We were just fortunate that the coronavirus was very close to MERS, so we pretty much had a ready-to-go vaccine on MERS, studied for two years on MERS (and) slightly modified to be the coronavirus vaccine, and that is the real story, no politics ... Russia has always been at the forefront of vaccine research,” Dmitriev told CNBC.

The vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with the Russian defence ministry The vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with the Russian defence ministry Photo: Russia's Health Ministry / Dmitry KURAKIN