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Putin's plan for Russian coronavirus vaccine carries "excessive threat of misfire," specialists say

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Syria.

Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin is trying to achieve "a national victory" with the planned rollout of Russia's coronavirus vaccine after mistreating his country's outbreak and failing to revive the economy, an expert said Wednesday.

It is the world's first Covid-19 vaccine. Putin announced Tuesday that Russia's vaccine "works fairly effectively" and "passed all necessary controls. The claim has sparked skepticism among scientists and public health officials.

"Let's be very frank here: Putin needs a victory, he needs a national victory," J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president at the Think Tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia".

"He's badly managed the outbreak in his own territory, he's lost public confidence in his efforts, his economy is on the back, he can't do any of the big, costly public infrastructure projects he promised in the last election campaign," he said added.

This is a case where Russia is sacrificing big profits, big profits domestically and, as they hope, internationally.

J. Stephen Morrison

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Russia has reported more than 895,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease and over 15,100 deaths from Wednesday afternoon in Asia according to the Johns Hopkins University. The country's cumulative infections are the fourth highest in the world after the United States, Brazil, and India, Hopkins data showed.

Like many other experts, Morrison questioned the speed with which Russia was testing its vaccine. Clinical studies were completed in less than two months, and larger "phase three" studies are not due to begin Wednesday. There are no published data from previous studies, so the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine remain unclear.

Still, Russia has announced that full production will start next month.

"This is a case where Russia is making big profits, big profits domestically and, they hope, internationally," said Morrison.

"It's a high risk, this is a high risk of misfiring, especially when there is adverse effects and they are trying to cover it up. And these are not the normal road rules and so cause a lot of discomfort."

With the vaccine, Putin is trying to recall the long-gone "golden days" of Russian science and immunology, said Morrison, who is also director of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center.

The Russian president has also marketed the vaccine in other countries, including the Philippines, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, according to Morrison. That could be that Putin "toyed with the fear" among low and middle income countries that they would lose to rich nations to get the vaccines made by big global pharmaceutical companies, he said.

– CNBC's Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.

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