Russia has registered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine claiming that it has been proven to offer lasting immunity from the coronavirus for up to two years.
Russia registered the first COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday and is now the first nation in the world to lay claim to such a feat which brings it closer to asserting its image as a global power. Many have praised the accomplishment in the media without failing to mention the prestige that comes with being the first – before all other nations, such as the U.S., Britain and Canada who accused Russia of using hackers to steal vaccine research from Western labs, interestingly enough.
Putin’s Daughter Took the Vaccine
Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a government meeting that same day, stated that the vaccine is safe, has undergone proper testing and has proven efficient in offering lasting immunity from the coronavirus. “I know it has proven efficient and forms a stable immunity, and I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests. We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world,” he proclaimed.
Many scientists in the country and abroad have been sceptical, however, questioning the decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people. Human studies started June 17 among 76 volunteers. Half were injected with a vaccine in liquid form and the other half with a vaccine that came as soluble powder. Some in the first half were recruited from the military, which raised concerns that servicemen may have been pressured to participate. As the trials were declared completed, questions arose about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. Some experts scoffed at Russian authorities’ assurances that the vaccine produced the desired immune response and caused no significant side effects, pointing out that such claims need to be backed by published scientific data.
On 12 August, Russia had approved Sputnik V (the official name of the vaccine) and registered it as the first Coronavirus vaccine, while the world looked on with concern since they had not completed the phase III of the clinical trial. Phase III is the only way to know with statistical certainty whether a vaccine can prevent an infection, and how effective it is. And because it tests a much larger group of people, a Phase 3 trial can also detect more subtle adverse effects of a vaccine that earlier trials could not.
The very next day, under 24 hours, the Health Minister Mikhail Murashko had announced that mass production of the vaccines have already begun. Within two weeks time, the vaccine will be delivered to Russian hospitals and will be given to people who volunteer for it including doctors.
The WHO has responded to Russia’s claim and said that a rigorous review of the vaccine’s safety data needs to be submitted if the country wants the WHO’s stamp of approval.
“Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data,” Tarik Jasarevic, spokesperson for WHO, said during an online press briefing.
“We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine.”
Production of vaccine to begin
A Reuters report, citing an anonymous source, said that Russia’s first potential vaccine will be approved by regulators this month. Production of this vaccine is all set to begin September.
Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview with TASS said “The Gamaleya Institute is working on serial production with three enterprises with facilities in the Vladimir, Yaroslavl and Moscow regions, those are Generium, R-Pharm and Binnopharm… We very much hope that serial production will start as early as in September.”
While no exact numbers were given, Manturov said that ‘several thousands of doses’ will be produced each month this year. By 2021, Russian companies will produce ‘several million’ doses of the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology vaccine.
The World Health Organisation has stated that all vaccine candidates should go through full stages of testing before being rolled out. Experts have warned that vaccines that are not properly tested can cause harm in many ways – from a negative impact on health to creating a false sense of security or undermining trust in vaccinations.
During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia has registered 897,599 coronavirus cases, including 15,131 deaths.