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Despite theft allegations, Russia hails deal to make UK-developed COVID-19 vaccine

Moscow: Russian drugmaker R-Pharm has signed a deal with AstraZeneca for it to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the British pharmaceuticals giant and Oxford University, it said on Friday, July 17.

Following allegations from Britain, Canada and the United States that hackers backed by Russia were trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research, the head of Russia's wealth fund said the deal showed that Moscow has no need to steal anything."We don't need to take anything from the UK, everything is given to R-Pharm by AstraZeneca and AstraZeneca will be the one of core producers of Oxford vaccine in the world," fund head Kirill Dmitriev told Reuters.

Dmitriev, who has been injected himself with the Russian vaccine, said he believed it was superior to others. He said its effect lasted longer, it was based on proven virus technology, and had so far shown no side effects including on female fertility. Reuters could not verify those assertions.

Britain, Canada and the United States said on Thursday, July 18 that hackers backed by the Russian state were trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world - allegations the Kremlin denied.

AstraZeneca declined to comment. It said last month it was in talks with Russia and other countries about supply deals for its potential coronavirus vaccine. The global vaccine race was about scientific prestige, international cooperation, and Russia's desire to vaccinate its own population as quickly as possible in order to resume full economic activity, Dmitriev said.

Rolling out a vaccine would not be a big money-spinner, said Dmitriev, because the Russian-made vaccine would be sold at not-for-profit prices and be free at point of delivery inside Russia.
Russia's interest in the Oxford vaccine, which he described as "pretty good", stemmed from a desire to help international efforts to roll out a vaccine. Moscow will deliver the British-developed vaccine to other countries who want it, he said.

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