Russian coronavirus ‘vaccine’ announced by Vladimir Putin is shrouded in secrecy – but don’t dismiss it yet, writes BEN SPENCER
Russia’s claims that it created the world’s first coronavirus vaccine should not be dismissed outright.
The country has a proud history of scientific achievement – it sent the first human into space and led the world in engineering, mathematics and physics for decades.
It also has a strong track record of producing reliable vaccines – particularly against Ebola and yellow fever – and the Moscow institution behind the new shot, the Gamaleya Research Institute, is a long-standing and well-known research center.
But it is difficult to assess the safety and efficacy of the vaccine because very little information is available.
The teams behind the experimental Covid vaccines in Oxford, the United States and China have all published detailed results of their trials at each stage.
However, the Russian team has not revealed much.
Russia has a strong track record of producing reliable vaccines – particularly against Ebola and yellow fever – and the Moscow institution behind the new shot, the Gamaleya Research Institute (employee working with a coronavirus vaccine at the institute pictured) is an established and well known research center
Photo provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) shows a researcher working in a laboratory of the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia, August 6, 2020, as Russia claims to have developed the Covid-19 vaccine
The scant details suggest it is an adenovirus vector vaccine – a similar type to the ones being developed in Oxford and elsewhere.
These contain a weakened version of the common cold virus that has been genetically altered to trigger the production of immune cells – antibodies and T cells.
Initial results from China and Oxford suggest this is a good approach – it will likely trigger an immune response with few side effects – but so far the Russian jab has been tested on only 38 people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) has claimed Russia developed a vaccine and says his daughter was given it
In the photo: Vladimir Putin’s daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, who he claims got the vaccine
A well-conducted randomized control study involving hundreds if not thousands of people is essential to prove that it is safe and works.
Starting a massive vaccination program without this step would be reckless and dangerous.
If patients are harmed by the shot before it passes further testing, it will undermine already fragile confidence in vaccines.
The good news is that it would be a relatively quick process for Russia to prove the vaccine works.
The Oxford University team is unlikely to get a definitive result any time soon, as the incidence of Covid-19 has declined.
Despite a survey of 10,000 Britons, they are forced to test their injection in Brazil.
Russia still has high coronavirus infection rates and scientists estimate it would take only two months to prove the vaccine is safe and effective.