RUSSIA has boasted some 40,000 people will receive doses of its coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V as the West continues to doubt its effectiveness.
Vladimir Putin's scientists handed out the first doses of the Covid-19 inoculation yesterday as the drug entered the third stages of clinical trials.
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The controversial drug was unveiled last month as it came under criticism for a potentially unsafe rapid development process.
In a study recently published in medical journal The Lancet, the Russian scientists boast the vaccine is "100 per cent effective" at giving immunity.
However, western scientists have pointed to "strange patterns" in the data and even claimed some of the evidence looked "photoshopped" as they analysed the results.
Kremlin scientists are however hoping to give 40,000 people in Moscow the drug in the coming weeks as part of the testing's final stages.
Anastasia Rakova, the city’s deputy mayor for social development, claimed the first doses of the vaccine were handed out on Wednesday.
She told Russian state media: "The number of applicants is growing daily. More than 35,000 Muscovites have already applied."
Volunteers reportedly get the vaccine free of charge and are given a shot, followed by a booster after 21 days.
Russia has boasted the vaccine should allow the country to overcome coronavirus by the summer of next year – so far having 1million cases and 18,135 deaths.
Putin's health ministry also announced a "year-long mass vaccination" campaign as they claimed the first batch of Sputnik V had "passed the necessary quality tests".
Russia became the first country to register a coronavirus vaccine when Putin announced the drug, which was developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute.
Business people, politicians and city officials have all claimed to have received doses to beat the coronavirus.
Russian scientists published data on the vaccine in the scientific journal The Lancet on Friday which appeared to show 100 per cent of participants in trials developed antibodies.
However, a group of prominent scientists and doctors have questioned the results – with one even saying the stats look "photoshopped".
Enrico Bucci, a biology professor at Temple University in the US, published an open letter in response to the article in The Lancet.
He told The Moscow Times: "There are very strange patterns in the data. By strange patterns I mean there are duplicate values for different [groups of] patients … which cannot be.
"Among the [different] groups of nine patients, testing completely different things, you see exactly the same numbers.
"It’s highly improbable to observe such a huge number of duplications."
Bucci added: "We looked into it and we didn’t discover anything strange with China’s vaccine, the US vaccine or others like the Oxford vaccine."
Andrea Cossarizza, professor of pathology and immunology at the University of Modena, added: "The data looks like it's been photoshopped … it’s too similar and too unlikely from a statistical point of view."
He described it as "very strange" for the same numbers to appear in all possible experiments with the vaccine.
The open letter has been signed by 19 scientists working at leading universities in Italy, France, Germany, US and Japan.
Russian cell biologist Victor Tatarskii said: "I share the main concern of the authors of the letter — the data for certain control groups looks too similar, and there is a high probability that such data didn't arise by chance."
Gamaleya deputy director Denis Logunov defended the figures amid the skepticisim.
He said: "The published data is reliable and accurate and has been studied by five reviewers of the Lancet."
The Lancet said it had shared the letter with he authors of the study and "encouraged them to engage in the scientific discussion".
Russian frontline workers have reportedly pushed back against being given the vaccine as they don't want to be used as "human guinea pigs", reported CNN.
Meawnhile, top respiratory doctor Alexander Chuchalin resigned after criticising the vaccine as a "gross ethical violation".
Chuchalin sought and failed to block the registration of the vaccine on “safety” grounds before quitting the ethics council.
He specifically accused the two leading medics involved in its development of flouting medical ethics in rushing the vaccine into production.
Russia has said it plans to produce 30million doses inside the country before the end of the year, and that it could also produce up to 170million doses abroad.
Putin claims he knows the vaccine works as one of his daughters received a shot as part of the development process.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled Operation Moonshot – an ambitious mass testing plan which he said was the "only hope" to avoid a second national lockdown before a vaccine.
The plan is expected to require 6million tests per day and will cost more than £100billion to roll out as the PM toughened restrictions amid a surge of cases in the UK.
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