Coronavirus: Russian vaccine shows signs of immune response

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legendVaccine created in Russia showed signs of immune response, report says

Russian scientists have released the first report on their coronavirus vaccine, saying the first tests showed signs of an immune response.

The report published by the medical journal The Lancet said that each participant had developed antibodies to fight the virus and had no serious side effects.

Russia cleared the vaccine for local use in August, the first country to do so and ahead of data release.

Experts say the trials were too small to prove their effectiveness and safety.

But Moscow hailed the results as a response to criticism. Some Western experts have expressed concerns about the speed of Russia’s work, suggesting that researchers may be taking shortcuts.

Last month,

President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine had passed all required checks and that one of his own daughters had received it.

What does the report say?

Two trials of the vaccine, named Sputnik-V, were conducted between June and July, The Lancet reported. Each involved 38 healthy volunteers who received a dose of the vaccine and then a booster shot three weeks later.

The participants – aged 18 to 60 – were followed for 42 days and all developed antibodies within three weeks. Among the most common side effects were headaches and joint pain.

The trials were open-label and non-randomized, meaning there was no placebo and the volunteers knew they were getting the vaccine.

“Large, long-term trials including a comparison with a placebo and additional monitoring are needed to establish the long-term safety and efficacy of the vaccine to prevent infection with Covid-19,” the report says.

A third phase of testing will involve 40,000 volunteers from “different ages and risk groups,” according to the article.

The Russian vaccine uses adapted strains of adenovirus, a virus that usually causes the common cold, to trigger an immune response.

Still a long way to go

By Philippa Roxby, BBC health reporter

‘Encouraging’ and ‘so far so good’ are some of the reactions from UK scientists – but there is still, clearly, a long way to go. Although the vaccine showed an antibody response in all Phase 2 participants, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would protect them from the virus. This still has not been established.

From these results, we can say that the vaccine appeared to be safe in healthy people aged 18-60 for 42 days, as that was the duration of the study. But what about the elderly and those with underlying health conditions who are most at risk for Covid-19 – how safe is it for them and over a longer period?

This can only be resolved after much larger, long-term randomized trials where participants are uncertain whether they are getting the vaccine or a dummy injection. These will also tell scientists the actual effectiveness of the vaccine among a much larger population.

Calls for openness and transparency have also been launched. Of the many vaccines currently being tested around the world, some will work better than others in certain situations and in certain groups of people, perhaps. So knowing exactly how they work and for whom is paramount – a vaccine is unlikely to be suitable for everyone.

What was the reaction?

Kirill Dmitriev, head of a Russian investment fund behind the vaccine, told a press conference that the report was “a powerful response to skeptics who have unreasonably criticized the Russian vaccine.”

He said 3,000 people had already been recruited for the next phase of the trials.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the country would start vaccinations from November or December, with a focus on high-risk groups.

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But experts have warned that there is still a long way to go before a vaccine can hit the market.

Brendan Wen, professor of microbial pathogenesis at London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Reuters news agency: “The report is a case of ‘so far so good’.

According to the World Health Organization, 176 potential vaccines are currently in development around the world. Of these, 34 are currently being tested on people. Of these, eight are at stage three, the most advanced.

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