CONTRIBUTION TO VICTORY AGAINST VIRUS

First registered Covid-19 vaccine: Russian Sputnik flies again

President Putin announced that the vaccine received state registration by the Russian health authorities and was approved for use in Russia.

In Summary

• The vaccine proved to be safe and effective with no significant side effects. It created a high level of immune response in the patients. It was given the name “Sputnik V” after the first Soviet satellite that was launched to Earth’s orbit in 1957.

• Russia (then the Soviet Union) was among the first countries of the world to eradicate polio, plague, smallpox and a multitude of other deadly diseases with the vaccines developed and produced locally.

Researcher at the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Researcher at the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Image: TASS

Following some of the publications in the Kenyan press on the global coronavirus pandemic, especially after the news that Russia had registered and approved for use the Covid-19 vaccine, I couldn’t help noticing that apparently there was a certain lack of information about my country’s work to combat the pandemic.

Therefore, I thought that it would make sense to share some facts with the Kenyan public. On August 11, President Vladimir Putin announced that the first Russian vaccine to prevent the Covid-19 disease received state registration by the Russian health authorities and was approved for use in Russia. He said that it was a great contribution to humankind’s victory over the coronavirus.

Over the last five months, the vaccine has been developed and tested on volunteers by the Gamaleya Research Institute. The test results were very successful. The vaccine proved to be safe and effective with no significant side effects. It created a high level of immune response in the patients. It was given the name “Sputnik V” after the first Soviet satellite that was launched to Earth’s orbit in 1957.

The pre-clinical and two phases of clinical trials have been completed. The mass production of the vaccine has started. In September, the vaccines will be administered to the people who are professionally exposed to a high risk of infection doctors, paramedics, schoolteachers, police, etc. After that, larger populations will have access to inoculation. What is important to point out is that Covid-19 immunisation will be strictly voluntary, even among the high-risk groups.

For those who have expressed doubts as to the safety of the vaccine, I would mention two things. In the framework of clinical testing of the vaccine, Dr Ginzburg Director of the Gamaleya Institute, the chief developer of Sputnik V injected himself with the vaccine a couple of months ago, together with his colleagues who were working on it. President Putin said his daughter had been inoculated with it. This shows the level of confidence that the Russians have in Sputnik V.

It is important to understand that the creation of Sputnik V did not come from nowhere. It is based on a solid foundation of many decades of achievements of thousands of scientists, researchers and practitioners working in hundreds of research and development institutions and hospitals that enabled us to create one of the best public health systems globally.

Russia (then the Soviet Union) was among the first countries of the world to eradicate polio, plague, smallpox and a multitude of other deadly diseases with the vaccines developed and produced locally. Today, we are fully self-reliant in terms of vaccines. And we provide vaccines to other countries.

The Sputnik V is based on the adenovirus vector vaccine platform developed in Russia for Ebola and MERS vaccines. Both vaccines are safe and effective. Apart from Sputnik V, we have 14 more Covid-19 candidate vaccines on different platforms that are currently being developed and tested.

You can gauge the overall effectiveness of the Russian public health system by the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once the pandemic struck in March 2020, we have urgently rolled out a whole array of measures to prepare for its peak and avoid the overwhelming of the hospital system. We have developed our own PCR test systems very quickly and tested over 31 million people (of a population of roughly 150 million people).

We diagnosed 902,000 cases of whom 710,000 people have recovered. Unfortunately, 15,000 people died, but Russia’s Covid-19–related mortality rate is among the lowest in the world – 1.69 per cent of all infected. That means the anti-epidemiological measures put in place throughout the country proved effective to contain the spread of the disease and loss of life.

To respond to the pandemic, we have built 23 brand-new fully equipped and staffed infectious hospitals across the country, which enabled us to reach a total capacity of 184,000 specialised beds, including ICUs. We have increased the local mass production of ventilators, PPEs and required drugs. We have developed and tested successful methods of treatment of the infected and new medicines.

We have retrained 1.5 million doctors and medics to work as infectionists. We motivated and organised tens of thousands of volunteers who contributed to the common effort by providing care and support to the elderly and sick or disabled people during the quarantine — all this in a matter of a few months.

To share our experience and knowledge, the relevant Russian authorities are cooperating with the World Health Organisation very closely, including on Covid-19. The required scientific information pertaining to the vaccine has been transmitted to the WHO or is in the process of being transmitted. We have always been in favour of multilateral cooperation in health matters.

Equally, we are ready for cooperation with all interested partners in the development and use of vaccines and medicines to support global coordinated efforts to combat Covid-19. And we will continue to help our friends around the world in addressing the complex problems caused by the global coronavirus crisis.

H.E. Dmitry Maksimychev is the Ambassador of Russia to Kenya