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Editorial: Literature on Sputnik V

By Gilbert Manantan

Don’t be such easy chumps. Government officials are suddenly in the grab-bag mode around Russia’s vaccine “Sputnik V,” named after the country’s first satellite during the cold war space race.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Health Ministry had approved on Aug. 11, 2020, the coronavirus vaccine that the Gamaleya Institute of Moscow, with the assistance of Russia’s Defense Ministry, had developed.

What Russia had explained so far is that the vaccine uses a different virus, the common cold-causing adenovirus, which is made to carry the genes of the protein spikes of the coronavirus, to prime the human body before any actual Covid-19 exposure.

Other than that, no other information has been shared. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been urging vaccine candidates to share their data to the rest of the world for peer review. At this point, the WHO says it “looks forward to reviewing” Russia’s research information.

Without published literature on Sputnik V, the vaccine will always inspire the feeling of a Russian roulette, that fatal game of chance with a spinning revolver.

It appears that the vaccine, which Putin claimed had already been administered on his daughter, also has its share of homegrown skeptics. Russia’s Association of Clinical Trials Organizations said thus: “Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger.”

Scientists in Russia and other nations said a Phase 3 trial takes months and should involve tens of thousands of people. It’s the only way to get a fuller picture of a vaccine’s success rate. Terminal stages of a single vaccine study in the US usually require a pool of 30,000 people.

Putin makes no mention of the scale of tests Sputnik went through. Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which bankrolled the vaccine, said: “We expect tens of thousands of volunteers to be vaccinated within the next months.” Russia has registered 897,599 Covid-19 cases with 15,131 deaths.

Earlier, the US, Britain and Canada accused Russia of hacking vaccine research from their laboratories, an accusation that Russia vehemently denied. The suspicion is only fed by Russia having not released information on its research process.

Sputnik V, therefore, leaves us with many questions. That is why we wonder about this sudden eagerness to be inoculated with a vaccine whose efficacy and safety is only vaguely explained. It doesn’t help that Putin announces his daughter’s temperature or that President Rodrigo Duterte is the Philippines’ first Sputnik V volunteer.

We also wonder at the glaring double-standard that hit wide-scale the country’s dengue vaccination program.


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