Russian Coronavirus (Covid-19) Vaccine
Almost nine months after the Covid-19 outbreak, Russia became the first country to grant regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine, dubbed “Sputnik V” (an reference to the world’s first satellite) for civilian use, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, describing it as “a very important step for the world”.
- Putin said the vaccine works “quite effectively” and “forms stable immunity” against Covid-19. Putin said that one of his daughters tested the vaccine on herself and was feeling well.
- However, the vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow in collaboration with the country’s defense ministry, has sparked skepticism about its safety and effectiveness, as it is approved for civilian use even before trials are completed clinic.
- Last week, the World Health Organization warned Russia not to rush with its vaccine, while Anthony Fauci, a leading American public health expert, expressed doubts about the injections that have place in China and Russia during his testimony before a panel of US lawmakers.
How does the Russian Covid-19 vaccine work?
The Russian vaccine is based on the DNA of an adenovirus of the SARS-CoV-2 type, a cold virus. The vaccine uses the weakened virus to deliver small parts of a pathogen and stimulate an immune response. Speaking to Sputnik News, Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya National Research Center, argued that the coronavirus particles in the vaccine cannot harm the body because they cannot multiply.
What are the results of the vaccine trial?
- So far, Russia has only released the results of Phase I clinical trials, which it says have been successful and produced the desired immune response.
- In mid-July, the Russian news agency TASS said the Defense Ministry claimed that none of the volunteers had reported any complaints and suffered no side effects.
- Phase I human trials began on June 17 with 76 volunteers, and most were recruited by the military.
- Half received an injection of a vaccine in liquid form and the other half of a vaccine in soluble powder form.
- According to the report, Phase II trials began on July 13.
- On August 3, Russian media reported that the Gamaleya Institute had completed clinical trials.
- However, the reports did not specify whether all three stages of the clinical trials were completed or if only Phase II was completed.
- Phase II trials typically last a few months.
- Interestingly, Russia previously reported that phase III human trials, in which a candidate vaccine is tested on tens of thousands of people to determine its effectiveness in real situations, will be completed after vaccine approval by regulatory.
When will the Russian vaccine hit the market? Who will be the first?
- According to a PA report, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova has promised to start “industrial production” of the Gam-COVID-Vac Lyo vaccine in September.
- However, the website of the National Register of Pharmaceuticals showed that the vaccine would appear in circulation from January 1, 2021.
- “Date of civilian release – 01.01.2021,” the site noted. Russia’s health minister said members of “risk groups” such as medical workers could be offered the vaccine this month and a mass vaccination program would be launched in October.
- He said doctors and teachers would be among the first groups to be vaccinated. The Russian elite received the experimental vaccine in April. Russia has yet to declare the price of the vaccine.
Why have experts expressed concerns about the Russian Covid-19 vaccine?
- The lightning speed at which the Russian vaccine was produced, eclipsing leaders like Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, has led experts to point out that the government has taken shortcuts and can put citizens at risk.
- What raised the skins of experts was the fact that human trials of the vaccine, which under normal circumstances take several years, were completed in less than two months.
- Russia, however, claimed this was possible due to the fact that its Covid-19 vaccine candidate closely resembles a vaccine against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Disease (MERS), caused by another coronavirus, which is already had tested extensively.
- Lawrence Gostin, an expert in world public health law at Georgetown University, told the AP; “I am concerned that Russia is taking shortcuts so that the vaccine that comes out is not only ineffective, but also dangerous.
- It doesn’t work like that … Testing comes first. ” Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease specialist, also questioned the fast-track approach during his testimony before a panel of US lawmakers.
- “I hope the Chinese and the Russians will test the vaccines before giving the vaccine to anyone. Because claims that a vaccine is ready for distribution prior to testing is, to say the least, problematic, ”Fauci said.
Which countries have shown interest in the Russian vaccine?
Recently, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview with TASS that “several thousand doses” would be produced each month this year and would increase to “several million” doses in 2021. The director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev, who financed the project, said in an interview that more than 20 countries have expressed interest in producing the Russian vaccine.
“Our foreign partners are showing great interest in producing this vaccine in their countries. There is great interest from Brazil, India and many other countries eagerly awaiting the Russian vaccine. More than five countries are now actively working with us to start producing the vaccine, ”Dmitriev told TASS.
The Telegraph reported that Britain is unlikely to use the Russian vaccine for its people. When asked if the Indian government plans to partner with Russia to bring vaccines to India, the health ministry said that a national group of experts on vaccine administration has been formed to examine it.