Russia’s first vaccine for the sputnik V coronavirus has generated mixed reactions in many countries. Some congratulated Moscow on the long-awaited achievement, and some criticized it. Negative comments are connected with the timing of creation: supposedly Moscow preferred speed to quality. According to the expert, enthusiastic comments about the new drug are really premature. Russia was the first in the world to register the vaccine against COVID-19. This was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 11. According to him, one of his daughters was vaccinated against coronavirus.
“This vaccine forms a persistent anti-immune immune system. I know that very well because one of my daughters gave herself this vaccination. In this sense, she took part in the experiment. After the first injection, her temperature was 38 degrees, the next day it was 37.5 degrees, and that’s it,” Putin said.
The vaccine was called Sputnik V. This is the development of the National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology named after N.F. Gamalei of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. The drug, which was clinically tested in June and July, is based on an already well-known platform through which a number of vaccines have been created. According to the Ministry of Health, the experience of using such drugs shows that they are able to form a long-term – up to two years – immunity.
The drug immediately became the subject of active discussions. Some countries congratulated Russia on its achievement, and some began to criticize the new development.
Anyway, according to the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev, Russia has received applications from 20 countries to supply 1 billion doses of vaccine.
Serbia was one of the first countries to congratulate Russia on the registration of the vaccine. The country’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, said he was ready to be the first to test the Russian drug “when Serbian experts say it is good.” Putin also received congratulations from his Azerbaijani and Argentine counterparts, Ilham Aliyev and Alberto Fernandez.
Venezuelan authorities are ready to use the Russian coronavirus vaccine to immunize its citizens and promote it jointly in the local market, Russian Ambassador to Venezuela Sergey Melik-Bagdasarov told TASS.
The Philippines’ intention to begin clinical trials of the Russian vaccine in October was announced during a press conference by the President’s press secretary Harry Rock.
After the vaccine was announced, Putin also spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron. The heads of state stressed the importance of further cooperation to counter the spread of coronavirus infection, including in the light of drug registration.
At the same time, the registration of a new coronavirus vaccine has drawn sharp criticism from a number of countries. In particular, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News channel that
The United States adheres to “much stricter” standards in vaccine development than Russia.
“These standards are set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and I understand from the Russian statement that they are not doing well,” she said.
For his part, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar noted on ABC that Washington in the development of a vaccine against coronavirus prioritizes the effectiveness and safety of the drug, not the speed of its development.
A professor of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, Swiss researcher Francois Balloux, also criticized the Russian vaccine in an interview with the French newspaper Liberation. He noted that a vaccine that was too quickly released to the market could pose a danger to humans.
“This is a stupid decision and above all dangerous. A political decision made in the mad race for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Ballou said.
As one of the co-authors of the first major study of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus RNA noted, if the introduction of the vaccine provokes serious side effects in people, it will be a disaster. “This will further increase distrust of health policy and the government as a whole,” Ballu warned.
Another country that has been criticized for the Russian drug in a short way is Germany. German virologist Jonas Schmidt-Kanazit, who works at the Bernhard Nocht Institute in Hamburg, said that Moscow had not released any data on the vaccine, which gives reason for doubts about its quality.
According to the virologist, there was almost no possibility to give Sputnik V an independent assessment.
“I react with very, very much restraint to the permission to use it because the scientists were not able to give the drug an independent assessment,” he told the DPA agency.
The head of the German Federal Medical Chamber Klaus Reinhard in an interview with the newspaper Rheinische Post spoke about this even more sharply: “I believe that the approval of the vaccine without a decisive, third, phase is a risky experiment in humans. It is irresponsible to vaccinate entire groups at this stage.”
Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko called the criticism of the Russian vaccine by foreign experts groundless. In his opinion, this is due to competition.
At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) is in no hurry to announce the emergence of a ready-made vaccine for a new coronavirus in the world.
“We cannot say for sure that there is a vaccine that has undergone all the necessary research. We still need to evaluate it so that the vaccine can be used internationally.”
Rana al-Hajj, Director of WHO’s Health Programme Department.
She recalled that the development of any vaccine should take place in three stages – confirmation of its effectiveness, safety, and further development.
“The vaccine may be effective, but not safe enough, with side effects that will be more harmful than the virus itself. The Russian vaccine has passed two stages of research and is now in the first phase of the third stage,” al-Hajj said.
Nikolai Topornin, an assistant professor of European law at MGIMO and director of the Center for European Information, also believes that the enthusiasm for the Russian vaccine is premature.
“Even WHO does not yet have a detailed description of the principle of the vaccine. It is not allowed for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases. It turns out that this vaccine can be administered only to healthy people from 20 to 64 years. This group just easily tolerates the disease, among these people there are almost no fatalities. Then what’s the point of them injecting this vaccine?”
“Gazette. Ru” expert.
He noted that international organizations did not yet have comprehensive information to describe the pros and cons of the vaccine. In addition, the third phase of the trial was not completed, which involves testing the drug on tens of thousands of people and monitoring their health for six months.
“We would certainly like to be the first to start selling our vaccine, but by Western standards, it is not certified. Western countries will not be able to release it to their domestic market: they have a very strict verification procedure. And that’s where the meaning of the statements that we are the first is lost,” said the director of the Center for European Information.
Troponin called this drug a political PR-action and questioned its justification. According to him, there are still many open questions. “I think it’s better to measure it seven times and cut it off once. I would caution against euphoria about the Russian vaccine against coronavirus,” the expert concluded.