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Russia's vaccine chief claims the West is attempting to lure its scientists away

An employee of the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology at the Russian Ministry of Health, which makes a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vyacheslav Prokofyev | TASS | Getty Images

The head of the Russian Vaccine Development Agency has claimed that Western research institutions are trying to "lure" their scientists away to work for them.

Alexander Gintsburg claimed attempts to poach scientists from Russia to work in Europe and the United States had not worked. Gintsburg is director of the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the Russian coronavirus vaccine, which received regulatory approval last week.

"Our researchers have been working at the Gamaleya Institute for ten years … Any American or European university can only dream of having such researchers. And they are trying to lure them away. But they will not be able to," Gintsburg told the Rossiya -1 TV channel on Sunday, reported the Russian news agency Tass. Gintsburg did not provide any evidence to support its claim, nor did it mention any specific institutions.

Russia registered its coronavirus vaccine on August 11, making it the first country in the world to do so. However, the vaccine has only gone through Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials with a limited number of participants. Russia said phase 3 trials on a larger group of people would begin in August.

Western health officials reacted with skepticism and concern to Russia's announcement of the vaccine and questioned the vaccine's effectiveness and safety as no data on the results of the clinical trials were published. Russia rejected the criticism, and a Russian official told CNBC that "some US media and US citizens" are waging a "major information war" against the vaccine.

Gintsburg said the negative reaction from the West was predictable.

"I would call it a natural negative reaction from western companies to the emergence of a Russian production that they did not expect. I think we should ignore these negative things that are being poured out on us," he said in the Rossiya-1 television interview .

Russia has denied that it is part of an "arms race" to develop a vaccine and has said it wants to work with other nations. However, the country's urgency to register a vaccine and its claims that it will begin mass production in September suggest a competitive stance in coronavirus vaccine development.

Even the name of the Russian vaccine, "Sputnik V", suggests the world's first satellite, launched by Russia in 1957 during the Cold War space race.

Tensions between Russia and the West have increased again in recent months. The UK, Canada and the US accused Russia of trying to "steal" research information about coronavirus vaccines, an allegation Moscow has denied.

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