Russian President Vladimir Putin announced, “regulatory approval” for the world's first coronavirus vaccine. He announced that the country will begin mass production by September.
Putin Announces Russian Vaccine for Coronavirus Is Ready
However, the news faced doubts and concerns in the global community. Experts believed testing did not reach phase 3 and was only administered to dozens. Aside from Putin’s statement, Russian authorities have yet to show further proof. He said: “I know it has proven efficient and forms a stable immunity. We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world.” Putin also disclosed that one of his daughters received a vaccine and that she felt fine after.
The Russian timetable for deployment is now tight. Reuters said that mass trials for Gamaleya will start only after regulatory approval. This stage will involve the required thousands of participants. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said the first group receiving vaccines are doctors. Medical professionals will receive the first vaccines by August and will be monitored. Meanwhile, large-scale production starts in September. If everything goes well, mass vaccination may begin by October.
Concerns over safety, speed
Russia appeared to beat frontrunners in coming up with a ready vaccine. Moderna Inc, Pfizer/BioNTech, and AstraZeneca/Oxford University are in advanced testing phases for their candidates. Some governments have pre-purchased stocks from these firms in anticipation. These include the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, and Japan.
Experts worldwide have raised questions about the Russian vaccine, named Gamaleya. They have raised the concern that it did not undergo phase 3 trials, which ensures the safety of the drug. Reports of Russian scientists injecting themselves with the vaccine circulated last July. While this move sped up development, it did not follow protocol. Russia's Association of Clinical Research Organizations told the media their concern about the process. Scientists who injected themselves were a “crude violation of the very foundations of clinical research, Russian law, and universally accepted international regulations.”
Jens Spahn, German Health Minister, also shared his concerns over Russia's vaccine. He warned that without full testing, the vaccine could turn out unsafe or ineffective. This in turn could affect further acceptance of vaccines by the public. Spahn said: “It can be dangerous to start vaccinating … people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong.” He added, “I'm very skeptical about what's going on in Russia.”
Moscow has also decided to call the vaccine “Sputnik V.” The name alludes to its predecessor, Sputnik, which is the world's first satellite. Like Sputnik, the vaccine touts itself as the first of its kind.
Despite skepticism surrounding the vaccine, markets responded positively earlier in the day. Investors pounced on stocks that they think would enjoy a reopened economy. Later that day, earlier gains got overshadowed when investors started selling tech stocks.
Dr. Derek Lowe, a blogger for Science Translational Medicine website, called the vaccine announcement as “a ridiculous publicity stunt.” He questioned the term “regulatory approval,” saying it is not an international standard. While the idea behind the vaccine makes sense, Lowe questions its development timelines. Given the requirements, he says there wasn't enough time given for proper testing. He noted that nobody can “responsibly approve” a vaccine that has less than two months of trials.
Lowe warned against “vaccine nationalism,” and said it was the last thing needed right now. Using the vaccine to proclaim superiority over other countries' efforts is counterproductive. He argues that coronavirus research needs to be as international as possible.
If it turns out to be true, the Russian vaccine could signal the beginning of the end for the coronavirus issue. The world needs all the help it can get to finally control the outbreak and regain some sense of normalcy. But that is a big “if” as questions about its safety and efficacy surround its development.
The bigger issue will be the PR problem the Russian vaccine will create once it's out in the market. If it works, why are we still waiting for our vaccines? If it goes bad, we should think of another solution other than vaccines. In the meantime, dealing with coronavirus should be like handling your business. Until you have the vaccine, you don't have it. Act accordingly.
Watch this as Russia Approves Coronavirus Vaccine:
Do you believe the Russian vaccine is safe, effective, and ready for use? Let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below.
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