The vaccine race is on! Most countries of the world are trying to come up with their own vaccine and end the COVID-19 pandemic. In early August, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia has been able to produce the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world. Is the war against this dreaded pandemic finally over? Read on to find out.
The Russian vaccine: the status
Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology began human trials on their COVID-19 vaccine in June. In July, the chief researcher claimed that the trials had been concluded and they were completely successful. On 11th August, Russia announced that the vaccine has been approved, it is ready and the first batch will be rolled out towards the end of August. Mass vaccination will start in the upcoming months in Russia. The vaccine has been named Sputnik V after the Sputnik 1- the first satellite ever to be launched from Earth (launched by the former USSR).
What are the experts saying?
Initially, as expected, the common people around the world were excited. The pandemic has claimed far too many lives and has brought immense hardships to our lives. And if finally, a country has produced the much-needed vaccine, shouldn’t that be a cause for celebration?
The experts don’t agree. Most countries of the world are not jubilant about Russia’s new vaccine and politics has nothing to do with it.
Medical and healthcare experts have actually sounded an alarm that the vaccine would not be safe for use. The simple reason why they are not happy is – the vaccine production was rushed.
Russia started human trials in June and they claimed in August that the vaccine was ready. According to experts, this just can’t be possible. Human trials cannot be conducted in 1 or 2 months.
Another reason why experts are worried is that Russia did not even conduct the 3rd phase of human trials. The health crisis caused by coronavirus is severe. But that is no excuse to hurriedly wrap up human trials and forgo the 3rd phase. This could lead to a fresh round of health complications if people’s bodies cannot accept the new vaccine. Experts feel that to end coronavirus, Russia is about to do something that could endanger the lives of thousands of people.
What is India’s stance on Sputnik V
Although India has not made any public announcements regarding the Russian vaccine, India’s silence on this matter can be seen as a sign of disinterest in Sputnik V. Medical professionals in India are of the same opinion as their international colleagues. They feel that the vaccine may not be suitable for use.
But there is no need for Indians to despair. Even if we don’t start vaccinating in September or October like Russia, our own vaccine may not be that far off.
India is currently running phase 2 human trials on 2 indigenous vaccines-
1. Covaxin which is being produced by Bharat Biotech, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV).
2. ZyCOV-D which is being produced by Zydus Cadila.
On top of that, we are collaborating with Britain on their Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. This vaccine too is in its trial phase in India and has shown a lot of promise.
So, let us be hopeful! The medical community is working round the clock to get a safe COVID-19 vaccine in the market. In the meantime, we can prevent further spread of the infection by maintaining social distancing, going out only when necessary and practicing social distancing and hygiene.