Russian elites have been getting experimental COVID-19 vaccine for months: report
President Donald Trump's manner with Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in contrast to the anger he flashed at NATO allies. (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)

Many of Russia's business and political elite have gotten an experimental vaccine against COVID-19.

Top executives and billionaire business elites began receiving shots developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute in Moscow as early as April, sources familiar with the effort told Bloomberg News.

The project, which is financed by the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund and backed by the Defense Ministry, completed a phase 1 trial last week involving about 40 military personnel, and has started the next stage of testing with a larger group.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was hospitalized with the virus in May but has recovered, said he did not know the names of individuals who have received doses of the vaccine, which is based on proven vaccines for other diseases.

The vaccine's effectiveness has not yet been determined, according to a former executive at a state-run virology center in Siberia that is also working on a vaccine.

Peskov said he wasn't aware of any officials trying the experimental vaccine, and he was equivocal when asked if president Vladimir Putin had tried it.

“It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to use an uncertified vaccine on the head of state,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

Russia has reported more than 750,000 cases of COVID-19, which is the fourth-largest total in the world.

The experimental vaccine is purportedly a viral vector vaccine based on a human common-cold virus fused with the spike protein of SARS CoV-2 to stimulate an immune response.

Bloomberg reported that it had confirmed dozens of people have been jabbed with the shots, but none of them would allow their names to be published.