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Skepticism of Russia ‘ignited the phase’ of development of the Covid-19 vaccine

Despite the message of triumph from Putin, experts are still concerned about Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine as well as the country’s purpose to “go ahead of the world”.

President Vladimir Putin announced today that Russia became the first country in the world to license a Covid-19 vaccine, after less than two months of human trials. Officials hope this breakthrough will help revive an economy that has been seriously damaged by the pandemic.

Kirill Dmitriev, director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), compared the discovery of the Covid-19 vaccine as the historic “Sputnik moment”, when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite into space in 1957. The vaccine was also named “Sputnik V”, after the satellite “Sputnik 1”.

An image provided by the Russian Defense Ministry on July 15 shows medical staff preparing to take blood from volunteers participating in the Covid-19 vaccine trial at Budenko Military Hospital, a suburb of Moscow. Photo: AP

However, the Russian Ministry of Health approved the vaccine before even starting a major test on thousands of people, known as the Phase III trial. This process requires a certain percentage of participants to be exposed to the virus to monitor vaccine effectiveness, often seen as a necessary prerequisite for the vaccine to be approved by regulators.

The Association of Clinical Trial Organizations (ACTO), the trade organization representing the world’s leading drug manufacturers in Russia, recently called on the country’s Ministry of Health to postpone approval of the Covid-19 vaccine, for until the final test step has been successfully completed.

In a letter to the administration, the ACTO pointed out that the licensing of a drug or vaccine prior to Phase III trials has high potential risks.

“It was during this period that important evidence of the efficacy of the vaccine was gathered, as well as information on the adverse reactions that may occur in certain groups of patients, such as those with the immune system. weakened, “the letter contained.

Some international experts have also questioned the speed at which Russia approves the vaccine. “Normally, you need a large number of people testing before you get a vaccine. I think it’s reckless to get it through, but not many people,” says Peter Kremsner, an expert at Tuebingen University Hospital in Germany. , comment.

Duncan Matthews, a professor of intellectual property law at Queen Mary University London in the UK, says the news of a potential Covid-19 vaccine is welcome, but “safety must be a priority”.

“The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Drug Administration (EMA) also have expedited approval procedures for emergency humanitarian purposes. We need to look at the evidence that Russia is in the process. Take the same conservative approach, ”commented Matthews.

President Putin made the goal of finding the Covid-19 vaccine a top priority, given that Russia is one of the largest epidemic zones in the world. The United States, Western Europe and China are also joining the vaccine race, with research programs and supply chains established to serve the production of Covid-19 vaccine. More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed around the world, of which at least four are being tested for Stage III, according to WHO.

Critics say Russia’s decision to win the vaccine race is partly due to political pressure from the Kremlin, which wants to assert Russia’s global scientific prowess. Becoming the first country in the world to successfully develop the Covid-19 vaccine is said to also help enhance the country’s prestige, highlighting its status as a great power.

Russia began testing the Covid-19 vaccine in humans on June 17 with 76 volunteers, including many soldiers in the army, raising concerns that they may have come under pressure to participate.

Another alleged manifestation of Russia’s ambitions came last month, when the APT29 hacker group, which is considered part of Russian intelligence, was accused of cyber-attacking research and development organizations. vaccines against Covid-19 from the US, UK and Canada.

British intelligence officials rated this as an attempt to steal intellectual property rather than disrupt research. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on July 17 “vigorously denied” the allegations he said were baseless. Mr. Dmitriev today again denied the suspicions.

Even if Russia adopts a Covid-19 vaccine, it is unlikely to get Western approval, says Peter Shapiro, a pharmaceutical sector analyst at UK research firm GlobalData.

“Regulatory standards in Russia are quite low. We see vaccines developed in Russia often not recognized in major markets such as the US, Japan and Western Europe. Russia is not a major producer in the export industry.” quality medicine and bio-products, “Shapiro said.

However, in fact, Russia has made certain achievements in the field of vaccines, such as the successful preparation of the Ebola vaccine that has been licensed in Russia for use in emergencies and is expected to soon be deployed in Congo. They are also increasingly actively promoting vaccine production in Africa.

Despite a series of doubts about the “phase burn”, President Putin declared the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow safe, even though one of his two daughters had been injected and felt well. strong.

“I know the vaccine works quite effectively, helping to build a strong immunity. I repeat, it has gone through all the necessary tests,” the Kremlin boss said.

(According to Reuters, AP, CNN, Bloomberg)

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