Russia's announcement that it has a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19) came out of left field, as Russia had not been considered a serious contender in the international race to first produce an effective vaccine.
Any progress in this field is welcome news, but maybe don't begin celebrating just yet.
It's quite clear President Putin has moved so quickly to endorse the vaccine mainly for national prestige reasons, and there's still a long way to go before we will know if this represents a genuine breakthrough.
Yes, Putin says it has "passed all necessary steps", and even says one of his two adult daughters has received the vaccine (presumably Mariya Vorontsova, 35, who works as a medical researcher).
The vaccine has also been developed by the scientifically well-regarded Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, in collaboration with the 48th Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defence.
But despite gaining its Russian Ministry of Health "registration certificate", it has so far only been tested on 76 people, including those involved in its research.
In case it needed to be any more obvious why Putin wanted this to be a prestigious announcement, he chose to name the vaccine Sputnik V, after the Soviet Union's Cold War-era "Sputnik" satellite program (Sputnik I in 1957 being the world's first artificial satellite).
There are some upcoming developments to watch closely, though. A website for the vaccine says a phase 3 trial involving more than 2000 people is due to begin this week in Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Mexico. The Philippines is also keen to trial the vaccine. Typically, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has offered to be "injected in public".
Production of the vaccine could begin as soon as September. The registration certificate does not allow the vaccine to be used on the Russian general population until January 1, 2021, after the large-scale trials have been successfully completed.
The UK, US and Canada have all claimed that Russian state-backed hackers have been trying to steal COVID-19 treatment and vaccine research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions in other countries. Russia has naturally denied these allegations. Russia has always been strong in scientific research, but of course any shortcuts that could be achieved through espionage would be useful.
Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said in a government press release that the Gamaleya vaccine showed "high efficacy and safety" and there were no serious side-effects. The same release suggested the vaccine would confer two years of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (an estimate apparently based on vaccines Gamaleya has made using similar technology).
The vaccine is expected to be manufactured by Binnopharm in Zelenograd. The company says it can produce 1.5 million doses per year and plans to increase its manufacturing capability.
The vaccine would consist of two shots that use different versions of adenoviruses that Gamaleya researchers have engineered to carry the gene for the surface protein, or spike, of SARS-CoV-2. The second dose 21 days later contains the spike gene in Adenovirus 5. Some experts have concerns that the use of Adenovirus 5 could increase the likelihood of person-to-person transmission.
In the West, a vaccine would not be manufactured if it had adverse side-effects - even if it would save lives. This is portrayed as a professional "duty of care" on the part of the pharmaceutical companies, but is probably more about avoiding costly litigation. Russia would be less constrained for domestic use.
But that doesn't mean this announcement couldn't have global repercussions.
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can approve "emergency use" authorisation (similar to the Russian registration certificate) and it's possible President Trump will use this option to similarly fast-track an American vaccine to help his re-election prospects in November.
- Clive Williams is a visiting professor at the ANU's Centre for Military and Security Law.