Today, the world woke up to some rather unexpected news. Russian president, Vladimir Putin told the world that his country had discovered the first COVID-19 vaccine. The president delivered the news on state television. Although concerns were raised about the safety and effectiveness of the virus, Putin reassured Russian citizens and the world that the vaccine works.
He went a step further and said that his daughter was one of the first recipients of the vaccine. According to Putin, the vaccine has some side effects, but it’s nothing serious.
The vaccine was discovered and developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow. In a surprising twist of events, the vaccine is called Sputnik-V. The reference refers to the first human spacecraft. ‘Sputnik-IV’ was also a surprise to the world. It took the first satellite to space. Despite optimism from the Russian president, the vaccine has not yet gone through phase 3 trials.
There is a lot of criticism about Sputnik-V especially from experts in Europe and the US. Most of them believe that Russia took shortcuts to arrive at the decision. They claim that the vaccine may not be as effective as people think. Political analysts believe that Putin was pressured into making the announcement because Russia is eager to head the vaccine race.
What usually follows after such an announcement is scientific evidence to support the claims. Unfortunately, Russia hasn’t showed any proof.
Regardless, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund or RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev says that the announcement has led to pre-orders. The RDIF head has said that more than 20 countries from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East want to sample the vaccine. To meet customer expectations, RDIF plans to produce more than 500 million doses of Sputnik-V annually. The company is in the process of finalizing the sale agreements.
The RDIF said that phase 3 trials will start on 12th August 2020 in Russia, UAE, and other interested countries.
Medical professionals and experts from the UK have expressed concern over the safety of Sputnik-V. The lack of scientific proof means that something could be amiss.
Danny Altmann, an immunology professor at Imperial College London has urged nations to stop thinking that everything is a race. He is calling for unity and exchange of information and knowledge among countries as they search for an effective vaccine. He has warned about being hasty in approving a vaccine before it passes all trials. Danny believes that the problems could be exacerbated by a faulty vaccine.
But the Russian health ministry has refuted those claims. They claim that the vaccine is safe and doesn’t have any serious side effects apart from a temporary increase in body temperature. From there, the participants develop antibodies.
Russia is not the only country conducting clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, there 25 other vaccines from different countries around the world in the same stage.
The World Health Organization or WHO is closely monitoring vaccine development from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in the UK. There is another vaccine from the US National Institute of Health and Moderna, which is also on WHO’s radar.
China has also approved a corona vaccine, Ad5-nCoV, which is being used by their military. Although the vaccine was initially criticized for not being very effective after test results were published on Lancet medical journal, the Chinese government still believes in it.