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Russian roulette? Why Putin's COVID-19 vaccine claim feels dangerous

Coronavirus vaccine news update: Russian President Vladimir Putin said that one of his daughters received a shot of the world's first COVID-19 vaccine. Putin said that the vaccine forms strong immunity

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | August 11, 2020 | Updated 15:47 IST
Russian roulette? Why Putin’s COVID-19 vaccine claim feels dangerous
Russian coronavirus vaccine launched: Putin's daughter receives shot

COVID-19 vaccine latest news: Russia launched its first COVID-19 vaccine candidate on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughter received a shot of the vaccine. The President said that the coronavirus vaccine is safe and forms strong immunity.

While some, including Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte are upbeat about the vaccine, some believe that the lack of availability of data of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund throws many questions about its safety and efficacy. "When the vaccine arrives, I will have myself injected in public. Experiment on me first, that's fine with me," Duterte said in a briefing adding that Manila could assist Moscow in the launch of the coronavirus vaccine.

PANDORA'S BOX

According to a report in Bloomberg, the Association of Clinical Trials Organizations in Russia sent a letter to Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Monday stating that allowing civilian use of a potential coronavirus vaccine before trials are complete could put people at risk. The association said that registering the vaccine could open the doors for civilian use of the vaccine, even as fewer than 100 people have received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Why are all corporations following the rules, but Russian ones aren't? The rules for conducting clinical trials are written in blood. They can't be violated. This is a Pandora's Box and we don't know what will happen to people injected with an unproven vaccine," said ACTO Executive Director Svetlana Zavidova to the news site. "They haven't published anything. This runs counter to the rest of the world. There is a standard to publish data even from unsuccessful studies," said Zavidova.

Alexander Chepurnov, former head of infectious diseases at Vektor said that the lack of data is a red flag. "The danger is there... in terms of the possibility of increasing the disease's severity with the wrong vaccine," said Chepurnov.

The Phase 3 trials of the coronavirus vaccine candidate started last week in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These trials usually take months to complete. 

However, top US experts have raised concerns about the safety and efficacy of the Russian vaccine. Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it was unlikely that the US would use any vaccine in a country where regulatory systems are far more opaque than they are in the West. "I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone. Claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic, at best," he said during a Congressional hearing.

Also read: Russia set to register world's first coronavirus vaccine on August 12; all you need to know

PRODUCTION OF RUSSIAN VACCINE

One of the Health Minister's deputies said that the production of the Russian coronavirus vaccine is scheduled to start in October.

Bloomberg stated that scores of Russian elites have been given access to the experimental vaccine as early as April. The Defence Ministry said that the military volunteers completed the Phase 2 trials in July.

The vaccine recently cleared the first stage of clinical trials that started on June 18. According to Sputnik News, the vaccine would be made available in the market before the third phase of clinical trial is over.

HOW THE VACCINE WORKS

Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya National Research Centre, stated that coronavirus particles used in the anti-COVID-19 vaccine cannot harm the body as the drug uses inanimate particles created on the basis of adenovirus. "The particles and objects that can reproduce their own kind are the ones that are considered alive. The particles in question cannot multiply," Gintsburg said.

The technology is vector vaccine based on the DNA of a SARS-CoV-2 type adenovirus. Genetic material from the coronavirus has been embedded into the harmless carrier virus to deliver small parts of the pathogen into the human body to stimulate an immune response

Some people might experience fever but, Gintsburg said, such side-effects can be dealt with by taking a paracetamol.

Also read: Russia launches first coronavirus vaccine; Vladimir Putin's daughter gets vaccine shot

Also read: Russia likely to approve world's first coronavirus vaccine by August 10

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