Russians are first in global cure development race but can we trust Russia’s cure?
When the whole world was running in the race of creating COVID-19 vaccine, on May 22nd Russia gave the world the news that the developers of a coronavirus vaccine have developed immunity to the infection after self-testing. This news acted as hope for all and everyone had an eye on Russian developers since then.
To turn this news brick strong, Alexander Gintsburg a Soviet and Russian Microbiologist and the director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Research Institute on May 29th said that a week before he took a dose of this vaccine that he hopes will complete the clinical trial by the end of the summer. He then wants to develop his vaccine which is similar to one developed by Chinese firm CanSino
Gam-COVID-Vac is the name given to the vaccine. It is a viral vector vaccine based on human Adenovirus (common cold virus) fused with the spike protein of SARS-COV-2 to stimulate an immune response. The recombinant Adenovirus type-26 (Ad26) are both used as a vector in vaccine candidate. The Ad26 vaccine is used on the first day and the Ad5 vaccine is given on 21st day to boost response. It’s a two-part vaccine.
After this, in June Russia planned to start testing for the vaccine on paid volunteers. Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) gave a green light to this research and decided to start clinical testing in mid-June 2020 and enter production by fall.
The first part of Russia’s cure is in the form of a solution for intramuscular administration. Burdenko Military Hospital was the testing centre for the first part of the vaccine. On July 7, 2020, came the news which said: “the volunteers who tested the vaccine against Coronavirus 2-weeks ago at Burdenko Military Hospital are feeling well and have not experienced any side effects, the Russian Defence Ministry told the reporters” and this news finally gave humanity some faith.
Final Trials Begin
The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that it started the final stage of the Coronavirus vaccine clinical trials, which is run by the Gamalei National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology. These trials began on June 18th when 9 volunteers received 1 component of the vaccine. On June 23th, 20 other volunteers took the vaccine will receive the booster vaccination.
The second part of the Russia’s cure was in the form of a powder for the preparation of a solution for intramuscular administration. Sechenov First Medical State University was the testing centre. University announced completing the clinical trials of World’s first COVID-19 vaccine. Alexander Lukashev the director of the Institute of Medical Parasitology, Tropical, and Vector-Borne Diseases at Sechenov University mentioned that the objective was to check if the vaccine was safe for human health, which was successfully achieved.
Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko came public about the clinical tests being over. Russia decided to give Gam-COVID-Vac a trading name and named it as Sputnik V in reference to the world’s first satellite. On 15th of August Russia’s President, Mr Vladimir Putin announced that Russia has finished the first batch of COVID-19 Vaccine.
Can we trust Russia’s Cure?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that they don’t have enough information about Russian Vaccine to evaluate its potency against the raging COVID-19 Pandemic and WHO has asked Russia a numerous time to release the vaccine trial data so that it can be examined by the experts.
Even the Gamaleya institute which is handling the major portion of vaccine production didn’t release the safety date of the trial phase. Putin’s daughter took the first part of the vaccine and has shown no signs of withdrawal, this is the only credible claim maid by Russian’s on the success of the vaccine.
It’s not just the global experts who doubt Russia but also some Russian companies who have raised some concerns against Sputnik V. A network of leading drug companies, ACTO (Association of Clinical Trials Organisation), which is based in Moscow too have their doubts against Sputnik V.
Reports from Russia say that Putin made the vaccine announcement and his government allowed its registration by only testing on 76 volunteers. This sample size is smaller than Oxford’s initial phase sampling size which was over 1000 volunteers.
Russia’s leading virologist and former head of infectious diseases at Vector University, Alexander Chepurnov has also expressed his concern over the safety of Russia’s cure and emphasised on the increased spread of novel coronavirus as well.
Protest in the International Scientific Community
In addition to all this, Scientists in the International Scientific Community are protesting against the registration of Sputnik V by Putin’s Government mainly because there has been no publication of result from its clinical trial. There’s no proof for the safety, effectiveness, and biomarkers for an immune response or efficacy against COVID-19 vaccine. They directly announced that Russia’s cure will begin phase 3 testing. No result for phase 1 and 2 testings could be found.
Philippine’s President Volunteer
Even after this Philippine’s president Mr Rodrigo Duterte has volunteered to take a shot of Sputnik V. He said “when the vaccine arrives, I will have myself injected in public. Experiment on me first that’s fine by me.”
AIIMS Director’s Comment on Russia’s Cure
The Indian government has been cautious with its official word on Russian vaccine. But AIIMS’ director Randeep Guleria said “we will have to see critically whether it is safe and effective. There should not be any side effects of the vaccine and it should provide good immunity and protection. India has the capacity for the mass production of the vaccine.”
Alternatives for Russia’s Cure
There are two candidates who are capable to produce a vaccine more effective than Russia’s Sputnik V. One is the University of Oxford, who have started the Phase 2 trials of their vaccine. The trial started on 26th of August 2020 in Bharti Vidyapeeth’s Medical College and Hospital, Pune, India. They have around 300-350 volunteers.
The other candidate is a pharmaceutical company Morderna Inc. They have recently claimed that their vaccine can stimulate the immune system of older people. This is amazing news because older people do not respond to the vaccine as well as younger people do.
Their vaccine is showing results in older volunteer which is easily comparable to the results of the younger ones.
The University of Oxford is everyone’s hope as their first phase was successful with above 1000 volunteers. Phase 2 has so far given excellent results. In phase 3 they are looking around 10,000 volunteers which if goes successfully can give WHO enough data and result to declare it as our solution for this pandemic problem.
India’s vaccine is under development phase by Bharat Biotech. The first phase trial showed a positive result. Bharat Biotech is conducting Phase 2 and 3 trial simultaneously.
Data of trial of these vaccines is open for evaluation by experts unlike Russia’s Sputnik V. This is enough to explain why no one is celebrating Russia’s success in the creation of a vaccine. Although the virus still rages across the world.
Our Freedom from Pandemic
In the end, only one question remains, when will mankind be able to live without the chains of COVID-19? The answer even after so much success is not soon. Even after Sputnik V and the success of other candidates the best chance of global distribution of the cure is around the end of the year 2020 or in the first quarter of the year 2021.
Even if we find the cure we might have to learn to live with the virus. But it is safe to assume that this war will go for long.