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Russia halts uptake of new volunteers in Sputnik V vaccine trial - TASS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Health Ministry said on Wednesday it was halting the uptake of new volunteers in its main trial of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, the TASS news agency reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, the vaccine's developers at the Gamaleya Institute said they felt it was no longer ethical to administer a placebo to volunteers now that the vaccine, approved for domestic use back in August, was being rolled out to the public.

The ministry said it had already vaccinated more than 31,000 volunteers as part of the Moscow-based trial, a quarter of whom received placebos.

In a separate statement, the ministry said it did not plan on "unblinding" the trial - telling trial participants whether they received a placebo shot or the Sputnik V vaccine - at this stage of the trials, TASS reported.

Russia in August became the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine, and began inoculating a small number of people considered high-risk while the trial was still under way. It ramped up the programme in December and over 200,000 people have now been inoculated.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by John Stonestreet and Mark Heinrich)

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