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First coronavirus vaccine: Why the world doubts Russia's claim

Much against Russia's claims of successfully registering world's first COVID-19 vaccine, India and the rest of the world have voiced serious concerns about its efficacy and safety

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | August 14, 2020 | Updated 14:55 IST
First coronavirus vaccine: Why the world doubts Russia's claim
Russia had on August 11 announced that it has become the first nation to give regulatory approval to a coronavirus vaccine in less than two months of human clinical trials

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on August 11 that it has successfully registered world's first COVID-19 vaccine developed indigenously in the country. He added that the inoculation called 'Sputnik-V' has proven to be efficient during tests, with a dose already being administered to one of his daughters.

But the world has not yet shown the kind of zeal and zest as was expected from the first vaccine against coronavirus. Even India, which is recording more COVID-19 cases than any other nation on a daily basis, hasn't manifested much enthusiasm. This notwithstanding the fact that Russia is considered to be open to providing the vaccine to India.

Also Read: Russia's COVID-19 vaccine not in advanced stages of trial: WHO

How has India reacted

The government is treading with caution regarding an official word on the Russian vaccine. AIIMS director Randeep Guleria has said that the inoculation has to be critically examined to check its efficacy. He underscored that the vaccine shouldn't have any side-effects and should "provide good immunity and protection."

Meanwhile, biotechnology industry veteran Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has questioned Russian claims of developing the world's first safe coronavirus vaccine, citing the absence of data on clinical trials and "more advanced" programmes elsewhere.

The Executive Chairperson of Bengaluru-headquartered Biocon Ltd. has said that the world has not seen any data on Phase 1 or 2 clinical trials conducted by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute. Mazumdar underlined that Russia launched the vaccine without completing Phase-3 trials which can be acceptable to the country, but it doesn't make it the world's number first vaccine as "several other vaccine programmes are even more advanced."

Meanwhile, Russian media reported that the inoculation would be available for other countries from January 2021.

Also Read: Coronavirus vaccine: Will PM Modi announce two COVID-19 vaccines on August 15?

Why the world is apprehensive about Russia's COVID-19 vaccine

Experts across the world were swift to express concerns regarding the speed of the country's work with several nations voicing skepticism. Researchers in the US, France, Spain and Germany have all called for caution.

Terming the apprehension "groundless", Russia's Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that the country's "foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that... are absolutely groundless."  Murashko further stated that the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine will be available "within the next two weeks, primarily for doctors." Meanwhile, Russian officials have said that the mass vaccination will start in October this year.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was holding talks with the Russian authorities about carrying out a review of the vaccine. It is because Russia's inoculation is not among the organisation's list of six vaccines that have made it to Phase 3 human clinical trials, which comprise extensive testing in humans.

Also Read: Coronavirus vaccine: Russian COVID-19 vaccine recommended for 18-60 years old

How is the world reacting

Health officials and media outlets in the US and Europe have expressed skepticism regarding the progress Russia claims to have made on the COVID-19 vaccine. On Wednesday, Germany's health minister Jens Spahn voiced concern that the inoculation had not been tested properly.

Talking to local media he stated that "it can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions" and that it is too early as "it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong."

Meanwhile, Isabelle Imbert, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Marseille, enunciated that Russia's claim promising a cure to COVID-19 could be very dangerous" as the methodology or the results of the human trials are not known to anyone except Russia.

United States' top virus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, also noted that he doubted the country's claims. Speaking to National Geographic, Dr. Fauci stated that he hopes that Russia has "actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective" which he said he doubts.

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