Russia is now taking the lead in the global race to find a vaccine for our current international health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has disturbed millions of lives, infected more than 20 million people, and killed more than 700 thousand people from all around the globe. Thus, does Russia now have the answer to our ongoing crisis?
Everything about the vaccine so far
With the aid of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute developed a vaccine for the coronavirus. The vaccine is known as Sputnik V which is a reference for the 1957 Soviet Union satellite.
Moreover, the vaccine gained Russia’s approval even before the start of stage 3. Thus, the world can consider the Russian vaccine Sputnik V as the world’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Scientists have already conducted the necessary human trials which are equivalent to a phase 1 process according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Furthermore, they still need to publish the data concerning the vaccine.
On Wednesday, officials announced the start of the Phase 3 trial. The trial includes human testing on more than 2,000 people residing in Russia and several Middle Eastern countries as well as some Latin American countries.
They also announced that they hope to start mass vaccination in October.
The Russian vaccine overall safety
Since the data is yet to be published, no one can tell for sure if the Sputnik V is 100% safe. However, Russian officials claimed that volunteers in Phase 1 and 2 trials felt well after taking the vaccine. Additionally, The participants didn’t exhibit any unforeseen or unwanted side effects.
On the other hand, even though the first trials usually revolve around knowing whether a vaccine is safe and its elicited immune, these trials only involve the response of a small number of people. Thus, it is the 3rd phase job to determine the existence of any rare and unique side effects.
Again without the necessary data and the compilation of the 3rd phase trials, it is hard to prove the effectiveness of the vaccine. Officials stated that the vaccine is an adenoviral vector one. Moreover, the vaccine’s official website states that the vaccine evokes a strong antibody and cellular immune response. They also mention that “Not a single participant of the current clinical trials got infected with Covid-19 after being administered with the vaccine”.
Though the world is eager to try any solution for the pandemic, the lack of data is concerning everyone. Thus, Scientists from all over the world including Germany, France, Spain, as well as the US have all urged caution.
Many also are fearing that the vaccine has not been properly tested yet. For example, Germany’s health minister voiced his concern stating that “It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions… of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong,”. Jens Spahn then added that “Based on everything we know… this has not been sufficiently tested, It’s not about being first somehow – it’s about having a safe vaccine.”
The French National Centre’s researcher for Scientific Research in Marseille, Isabelle Imbere, also highlighted the danger in promising a cure too early. She added that this is especially because they “ do not know the methodology or the results of their clinical trials,”.
Furthermore, the US’s top virus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci also voiced out his doubts concerning the vaccine.”I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” he told National Geographic. “I seriously doubt that they’ve done that.”
Even the Moscow-based Association of Clinical Trials Organizations (Acto) urged the officials to postpone the government’s approval until after the results of phase 3.
On the other hand, some countries ended up responding more positively towards Moscow’s announcement. The Philippines president for example showed his faith in Russia’s vaccine while offering to test it himself. He stated that “I believe the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity,” he said. “I will be the first one to be experimented on.”
In brief, the word is still on the fence regarding the Russian vaccine. Though of course, everyone everywhere wants this nightmare to be over, we need to examine the data concerning it. Hopefully, time will prove whether this vaccine is our ticket for a pandemic free world.
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