Since the emergence of the coronavirus and all the restrictions that followed to curb its spread, people all over the world have been clamouring for one thing:
No, not that.
Reader: The ability to sneeze on strangers faces again?
No, not- wait why are you- never mind. It’s something else.
Reader: A vaccine?
Since none of us wants to stay locked in our houses for the next 60 years, people have been hoping and praying for a vaccine to be developed and approved quickly.
Well, we’ve got one now, but it may have been approved a little too quickly.
Covid-19 Vaccine Approved in Russia: Putin
On Tuesday (11 Aug), President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had become the first country in the world to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, with the inoculation of frontline workers expected to begin in the next few weeks, reported Financial Times.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, called it a “Sputnik moment”, referring to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite, in 1957.
There’s just one problem, though: the vaccine hasn’t completed clinical trials yet. In fact, it has only been tested on 76 people for less than two months.
This is a bit like announcing your marriage on social media before asking your partner, or driving like a maniac on the expressway before getting your driver’s license: it’s not a smart thing to do.
The announcement has worried some experts who believe researchers may be cutting corners and that the authorities are priortizing national prestige over safety.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also reacted cautiously to news that Russia was preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign.
And they might have good reason to worry, as only 10% of clinical trials are successful, according to Reuters.
Vaccine Given to Putin’s Daughter
Despite this, Putin said the vaccine offered “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus, and that it had passed “all needed checks”.
He claims the vaccine was administered to one of his daughters, who has reported no adverse side effects other than a brief temperature increase.
“After the first injection her temperature was 38 degrees, the next day 37.5, and that was it. After the second injection her temperature went up slightly, then back to normal”, he said.
Approved Before Phase 3 Trials
Usually, before a vaccine is approved, it has to go through several phases of rigorous testing.
The main goal of Phase 1 is to make sure the vaccine is safe, and usually involves a few dozen closely monitored participants.
Phase 2 typically enrolls hundreds of patients to expand the safety assessment and allow scientists to examine the body’s immune response.
Phase 3 can involve thousands of people, usually with some of them randomly assigned to get the vaccine and some getting a placebo to determine if it’s safe for mass use.
Russia, however, has approved the vaccine before it even passed Phase 3 trials. The speed at which it has conducted Phase 1 and 2 trials is also questionable.
“Normally you need a large number of people to be tested before you approve a vaccine,” said Peter Kremsner from the University Hospital in Tuebingen.
“In that respect, I think it’s reckless to do that (approve it) if lots of people haven’t already been tested.”
What’s also concerning experts is that its data cannot be verified, because the Russian authorities have not released any safety or immunity data from its studies.
Even with all the skepticism surrounding the vaccine, Dmitriev claims that Russia had already received foreign requests for 1 billion doses.
But whether people will be brave enough to receive these Russia vaccines remains to be seen.
Russia has 897,599 Covid-19 cases at the time of writing, the fourth largest tally in the world.
15,131 have died from the disease so far.