Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine: Trial results ‘encouraging but small’, say experts

A report by The Lancet medical journal on a COVID-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia says it has shown promising results, but adds that more work is needed.

In trials so far, the experimental Sputnik V vaccine has elicited an immune response and has brought no adverse side effects, according to Russian researchers. Doctors studied 76 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 60, over six weeks.

In a peer review31867-5/fulltext) of the Russian studies, experts in The Lancet say the two studies31866-3/fulltext) by Denis Logunov and his team from the N F Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology have several strengths.

However, they also noted some limitations: some of those taking part were young soldiers who were likely to be relatively fit and healthy, while older adults were absent from the study. There was also a gender imbalance, the number of people taking part was low, and there was no control vaccine.

Dr. Naor Bar-Zeev of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and colleagues write in the journal that the studies were “encouraging but small”.

Widespread public use ‘premature’

The editor-in-chief of The Lancet said the results of the studies did not mean that a general vaccine was ready for widespread public use.

“The results are encouraging, but it would be premature, highly premature, to think that this is the basis for a successful vaccine for public use,” Richard Horton told the broadcaster CNN.

Sputnik V received government approval last month but drew considerable criticism from experts, as the shots had only been tested on several-dozen people before being more widely administered.

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Nevertheless, its Russian developers made some bold claims Friday after presenting the findings to reporters.

Professor Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute that developed the vaccine with assistance from Russia’s Defense Ministry, told reporters that the vaccine triggers “sufficient” immune response “to counteract any imaginable dose infecting (a person) with COVID-19.”

“We are ready to assert that the protective effect of this vaccine will be detectable and remain at a proper level for 2 years, or maybe even more,” Gintsburg said, without providing any evidence to back up the claim.

Warning against vaccine ‘war’

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin are among the senior officials to receive Russia’s experimental Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus.

During a video conference with President Vladimir Putin, Sobyanin said he decided to get the vaccine to show support for its developers.

Richard Horton welcomed progress made in numerous vaccine trials around the world, but criticised the way the Russian tests were presented in Moscow as a “challenge to western science”.

“If we start setting nation against nation, vaccine against vaccine, and company against company, this is going to completely undermine any kind of rational response,” he said.

“This is a global crisis… A global crisis needs a global response and a global solution,” The Lancet editor added. “This isn’t a war between countries, this should be about cooperation.”

(euronews)

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