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Everything You Need To Know About The Russian Coronavirus Vaccine

Sputnik-V coronavirus: the first of its kind, just like the satellite it’s named after. It's a step towards "humankind's victory" over Covid-19 according to Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko.

By now we should've learnt that wherever Russia is involved, suspicion and doubt are attached.

While around 100 companies are waiting to complete phase III of their clinical trials, Russia has fast-tracked this process and will be ready to distribute their vaccine to the masses by the end of the year. Russian Health Minister Murashko affirmed on Tuesday the vaccine had "proven to be highly effective and safe".

Is this third phase even important?

The first two phases, conducted only after animal testing, are small and mid-scale human testing. Russia conducted these merely for two months on only thirty-eight exclusively adult subjects before granting it regulatory approval.

Even if we were to ignore that fact, phase III is still essential to determine whether the vaccine functions and is not just a placebo or does not have adverse long term effects. Thousands of people have vaccines or placebos administered to them before being sent out into the real world to see whether they get sick or survive. Regardless of the success of other procedures and phases, phase III can still fail.

Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and infectious disease expert at the University of Florida, has warned against rushing the vaccine-approval process. She says that it is “very unlikely that they have sufficient data about the efficacy of the product,” Data about the coronavirus and how it evades our immune system is also insufficient. To make matters worse, reports of the first two phases have not been published and only about 10% of clinical trials are successful. Putin still, however, believes that it has passed “all the needed checks,"

The vaccine is similar to those being tested out by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. It enters the human cells and creates an immune response which “forms strong immunity”. The “platform” used for this vaccine has been used in the past to treat Ebola and other related viruses. But, the carrier of the coronavirus strain in the vaccine is a harmless cold virus.

It is also worth noting that the vaccine’s registration is conditional and trials will continue while production is underway, according to Murashko. Phase III is also to be conducted from Wednesday. This would involve more than 2,000 people in Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Mexico, which is ten times less than the usual phase III, but will follow protocol. “We are in close contact with Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO prequalification of the vaccine. Then again, prequalification of any vaccine includes a rigorous review and assessment of all required safety as well as efficacy data.

The fact that over twenty countries have pre-ordered almost a billion shipments goes to show the desperation for even a hail mary in these trying times.

As if offering the international community a token of good faith, Putin has reported that his daughter has herself received the vaccine. His daughter’s temperature was 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) on the day of the first vaccine injection. It dropped to just over 37 degrees (98.6 Fahrenheit) on the next day. After the second shot, she experienced a slight increase in temperature, but now “She's feeling well and has a high number of antibodies,". This experience is shared by all volunteers, as per their last check-up, which showed immunity in all participants, the Russian Defence Ministry claims.

Why was this move for shortening clinical trials of not only this vaccine, but also many others even made? Some say it was to feel a sense of pride while others say it was a premature move to boost the economy. Either way, it can prove to be rash and may cause a huge disaster in the future. In contrast, many vaccines are also in the third stage, can't we just wait? But, think about it like this-thousands of lives are being lost every day. These deaths could have been avoided at least momentarily by making a rash but effective move. The vaccine is, after all, effective, and nothing goes to show that there are any side effects. Think to yourself- isn’t stopping the distribution of this an injustice?

Reporter: Katyayani Nath

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