Russia approves second vaccine against virus after initial trials


MOSCOW – Russian authorities have given regulatory approval for a second vaccine against the coronavirus after preliminary studies, two months after a similar decision drew widespread criticism from domestic and foreign scientists. Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement on Wednesday during a televised meeting with government officials.

“We now need to increase the production of the first vaccine and the second vaccine,” Putin said, adding that the priority was to supply the Russian market with vaccines.

The two-dose peptide-based vaccine, EpiVacCorona, was developed by the Vector Institute in Siberia and tested on 100 volunteers in early-stage, placebo-controlled clinical trials, which lasted over two months and were completed there two weeks ago. The volunteers were between 18 and 60 years old.

Scientists have yet to release the results of the study. In comments to media, scientists developing the vaccine said it produced enough antibodies to protect the person who had had it from the virus and that the immunity it created could last for up to six months. .

An advanced study involving tens of thousands of volunteers, necessary to establish the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, was to start in November or December.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who said earlier this week that she participated in the first trials as a volunteer, said Wednesday that 40,000 people will participate in the preliminary studies of EpiVacCorona. It is still unclear whether the vaccine would be offered for wider use while trials are still ongoing.

Russia’s first vaccine, Sputnik V, was developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute and approved by the government on August 11, after initial trials among 76 volunteers ended. Just like Wednesday, Putin personally broke the news on national television and said that one of his daughters had already been vaccinated, suffered mild side effects, and developed antibodies.

As Russia boasted of being the first in the world to approve a vaccine, experts said that, according to established scientific protocol, much larger studies on tens of thousands of people were needed to ensure safety and l effectiveness of the vaccine before it is widely administered. .

Russian health officials announced advanced testing of Sputnik V with 40,000 volunteers two weeks after receiving government approval. Officials also said that vaccination of risk groups, such as doctors and teachers, will be carried out alongside the studies.

Golikova said Wednesday that 13,000 volunteers have so far signed up for studies of the Sputnik V vaccine.

International criticism has not stopped Russia from promoting Sputnik V abroad. Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which financed the effort, said last month that the fund already had deals with Mexico, India and Brazil, which have ordered a total of 200 million doses, and dozens of other countries are interested in obtaining the vaccine.

Speaking at this year’s United Nations General Assembly, Putin offered to provide the Sputnik-V vaccine free of charge to UN staff. He described the offer as a response to popular demand: “Some UN colleagues have asked about it, and we will not remain indifferent to them.”

Russia has the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with more than 1.3 million infections. It has also reported over 23,000 deaths.

The epidemic in the country appeared to slow in the summer, but the number of new infections started to rise rapidly last month. In the past 11 days, Russian health authorities have reported more than 10,000 new cases every day. They recorded a record 14,231 new cases on Wednesday.


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