That COVID-19 vaccine Russia approved? It's only cleared for use in a small group of people.

putin at a podium
Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown here giving a speech in Paris in November 2015 (Image credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO)

Editor's Note: Live Science previously reported that a Russian vaccine candidate had been approved for widespread use. That is not the case; the vaccine has been approved only for use in a small number of people at high risk of infection, such as health care workers.

This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the country had approved a coronavirus vaccine, seemingly for widespread use. But the vaccine has actually been approved only for use in "a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups," according to Science Magazine.

Russia named the new vaccine "Sputnik V," in reference to the world's first artificial satellite, launched during the space race, Reuters reported

"We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world," Putin said in a cabinet meeting Tuesday morning (Aug. 11) in reference to the vaccine developers, according to The Associated Press.

Related: Here are the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates out there 

Although Putin announced that the vaccine had been approved, presumably for widespread use, the registration certificate issued by Russia's Ministry of Health actually covers only a small group including health care workers, according to Science Magazine. The certificate also states that the vaccine cannot be approved for widespread use until Jan. 1, 2021, although statements by various Russian health officials seem to contradict that clause.

"People outside of clinical trials will have access to the vaccine in August, and some, already on the massive scale, in October," Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), told reporters, according to the original Associated Press report posted Aug. 11. (RDIF funded the development of the vaccine.) Russian minister of health Mikhail Murashko said that the country will soon begin a mass campaign to distribute the vaccine, and that medical workers and teachers will be prioritized to receive it first, according to The New York Times.

A phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine, which will assess safety and efficacy more thoroughly, is scheduled to begin this week, Dmitriev told reporters, according to The Associated Press.

Originally published on Live Science.

Nicoletta Lanese
Channel Editor, Health

Nicoletta Lanese is the health channel editor at Live Science and was previously a news editor and staff writer at the site. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from UC Santa Cruz and degrees in neuroscience and dance from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in The Scientist, Science News, the Mercury News, Mongabay and Stanford Medicine Magazine, among other outlets. Based in NYC, she also remains heavily involved in dance and performs in local choreographers' work.