By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday reacted cautiously to news that Russia is preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against the novel coronavirus in October, saying the organization has established guidelines for producing vaccines.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier was asked at a UN press briefing whether the organization would consider it dangerous if an authority issued licenses for vaccines that had not gone through phase three trials.

Russia’s health minister had announced Saturday it is preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 this October.

Mikhail Murashko told reporters that the vaccination would be free of charge, and doctors and teachers would be the first to receive it.

He said clinical trials of the vaccine will continue along with its production and be used to improve it.

“We have to be always careful when any such measures or highlights or reports come out,” said Lindmeier, adding that the exact meaning of such reports needs to be examined.

“Sometimes, individual researchers claim they have found something which is of course as such great news. But between finding or having a clue of maybe having a vaccine that works and having gone through all the stages, is a big difference,” he said.

“We have not seen anything official that’s important. And if there was anything official, then our colleagues in the European office would definitely look into this,” he explained.

Lindmeier noted that there are general guidelines, regulations, and rules on how to deal with the safe development of vaccines.

“And these should definitely be followed to make sure that we know what the vaccine or the treatment is working for and against who it can help.

“And of course, also if it has any negative side effects or whether maybe the side effects are bigger than that they actually benefit from it,” he said.

On its website, the WHO lists 25 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 139 in preclinical assessment.

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