Russian authorities approve the use of a local COVID-19 vaccine candidate . . .
In a move to promote Russian science, Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Sputnik-V, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, to be the world’s first vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine has been given regulatory approval for use by Russian authorities but is not among the WHO’s list of six vaccines having reached phase-three of clinical trials. Clinical trials for the Sputnik-V began on June 17, months after trials in the U.S., China, and Europe. And the vaccine is yet to be tested on humans on a significant scale. Moreover, the results of preliminary trials of the vaccine in Russia have been kept secret. Still, Putin has affirmed that the vaccine is “quite effective” and offers “sustainable immunity” to COVID-19.
Duterte volunteers for vaccine trial . . .
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte accepted Russia’s offer for the Philippines – and himself – to participate in clinical trials once the vaccine is available. In July, he also volunteered the Philippines’ population as test subjects for a Chinese vaccine. This time, by giving credibility to the Russian vaccine, Duterte aims to strengthen his country’s relations with Russia, with the Philippines as a potential mass production site for the vaccine. Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev has indicated Russia’s willingness to co-operate with the Philippines and to partner with Filipino companies to produce the vaccine. The Philippines’ health authorities were scheduled to meet with the Russian drug developer today.
Poor vaccine is worse than no vaccine . . .
The scientific community in the West quickly reacted to Putin’s announcement by warning of the potentially dire consequences of fast-tracking the standard vaccine-trial process. The distribution of a weak vaccine could give a false sense of security that exacerbates transmission of the virus or creates virus strains capable of evading vaccine response. The opaque development of the Russian vaccine makes it challenging to identify this specific vaccine’s risks and to compare its results and efficacy with other candidates. Canadian chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that Canada will not cut corners to get a vaccine approved and that she has full confidence in Health Canada’s process.