A Russian roulette: 3 reasons why the new Russian coronavirus vaccine “Sputnik V” raises doubt

TD Editor

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that his country has achieved a major scientific breakthrough. He said that Russia is the first to approve an experimental coronavirus vaccine. Putin added that one of his two daughters was vaccinated with this experimental cure.

Officials said that the vaccine was developed in Gamaleya Institute in Moscow and aims to administer it to millions of people, including members of military, teachers, and healthcare workers, this summer and fall — ahead finishing clinical trials.

However, Russia’s incredibly fast-tracked vaccine has raised eyebrows (and alarm) among scientists and health experts that the country is jumping dangerously ahead of a critical, large scale testing that will determine if the vaccine is safe and effective.

Controversial name

The Russian coronavirus vaccine is named “Sputnik V,” a nod to the orbital satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. The worldwide jockeying in finding the cure for the current pandemic will remind us of the global space race.

For any country, developing and producing its own vaccine is a source of national pride and labs in the United States, Europe, China, etc. are on different phases in developing the elusive cure. According to political analysts, leading the vaccine race is like having an ace in the back pocket for Russia. It is also to avoid appearing dependent to Western powers with whom the country has poor relations.

However, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that funded the country’s vaccine development, dismissed allegations that the efforts are political.

Lack of transparency

We expect that all clinical trials are being overseen and monitored by the World Health Organization, but the organisation still lists the Gamaleya vaccine as being in Phase 1. Moreover, no studies or results from clinical trials of the vaccine were published.

Dmitriev said that Russia has always been secretive of its scientific endeavours and that the results of the Phases 1 and 2 of the clinical testing will be published by the end of this month, adding that the delay came from waiting for formal registration.

Limited testing

The biggest concern on the Russian coronavirus vaccine is the lack of large-scale testing at the time of this writing. The said vaccine has been tested in a small group and a handful of other volunteers.

Dmitriev said that Phase 3 of clinical testing will commence after registering the vaccine. He added that the larger trial will involve thousands of participants with parallel trials in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and possibly Brazil and the Philippines. The southern Brazilian state of Paraná announced that it will begin producing the possible Russian vaccine in November.

It is important to cite that the Russians are not alone in fast-tracking vaccines even ahead clinical trials and regulatory approval, China has already authorized a vaccine for use in its military.

Dmitriev said he is confident with the new vaccine and added that his wife and his parents, both over the age of 70, were test subjects. He said just his wife reported a mild fever the first night of the injection.

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