By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Comments by a senior U.S. official and moves by Britain towards the possible fast-tracking of COVID-19 vaccines show the West now accepts Russia was right to approve a vaccine as early as August, a Russian official said on Monday.
Russia granted regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine this month after less than two months of human testing, prompting some Western experts to question its safety and efficacy.
The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has since said he would be willing to bypass the normal approval process to authorise a COVID-19 vaccine as long as officials were convinced the benefits outweigh the risks.
The British government last week set out plans that would allow Britain's medical regulator to grant temporary authorisation for any coronavirus vaccine before it has received a full licence if it meets safety and quality standards.
The United States and London were now "exactly following the example of Russia," said Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia's sovereign wealth fund, which has been heavily involved in Russia's vaccine programme.
"The Western world was shocked by Russia's success (in producing a potential vaccine) and had to go through four stages of accepting the inevitable: denial, anger, depression, and ultimately acceptance," he said in a statement.
"Recent statements show that some of our western partners have already passed the stage of depression and it has now been accepted that Russia's approach is the correct one."
Russia has now begun Phase III trials of the "Sputnik V" vaccine that will test its efficacy on a bigger group of volunteers. It is also preparing to approve a second vaccine against COVID-19 in late September or early October.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has said mass vaccination of high-risk groups will begin in November-December.
(Editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)