By Marc Rivett-Carnac @mrivettcarnac
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that his country has developed a vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus.
After a series of tests, the drug was shown to be “more effective and stronger” than drugs currently used worldwide, Putin was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA Novosti. He did not provide further details about the new medicine.
The World Health Organization does not currently recognize any Ebola vaccine or treatment, beyond symptomatic care, but potential drugs are undergoing evaluation. Experts have also greeted Putin’s claim with considerable skepticism, with one researcher calling it “nonsensical.”
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said Russia will be able to produce up to 10,000 doses of the vaccine a month, RIA reported Thursday. Deliveries to the West African country of Guinea, where Russia has been operating a field laboratory since 2014, when the ebola outbreak swept across the region. Russian, U.S. and French mining companies have been vying for access to Guinea’s natural resources, notably the aluminum ore bauxite, for years.
Putin’s declaration comes at a time when the immediate need for the vaccine (and the opportunity to test it in real-world conditions) is receding.
A two-year Ebola crisis in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people sparked a new rush to find a cure. The region is due to be declared Ebola-free on Thursday.
(additional reporting by Geoffrey Smith)