Russia hopes to start COVID-19 vaccine trials soon - health minister

Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko speaks during a demonstration prior to the opening of a new section for treatment of patients, affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at N.I. Pirogov National Medical and Surgical Centre in Moscow, Russia April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia has taken measures to prevent “exponential growth” of the coronavirus epidemic and hopes to start clinical trials of a vaccine within weeks, its health minister said on Monday.

“We are already developing drugs to treat people throughout all stages of the disease and those are already being used. We are working very hard on developing a vaccine and hope to start clinical trials within a month or so,” acting health minister Mikhail Murashko told the World Health Organization (WHO) annual assembly being held online.

Russia, whose 290,678 confirmed infections is the second-highest number of coronavirus cases behind the United States, has been testing vaccine prototypes on animals.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge