Russian coronavirus vaccine ‘could kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong’

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Putin says that a coronavirus vaccine developed in the country has been registered for use and one of his daughters has already been inoculated. Speaking at a government meeting Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, Putin said that the vaccine has proven efficient during tests, offering a lasting immunity from the coronavirus. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin says a coronavirus vaccine developed in the country has been registered for use. (AP)

Germany has warned that Russia’s claim that it has developed the world’s first coronavirus vaccine could prove “dangerous”.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said this week that a COVID-19 vaccine developed in the country has been registered for use and one of his daughters has already been inoculated.

But German health minister Jens Spahn said he was sceptical about the claims, warning they could ultimately “kill the acceptance” of vaccination as a weapon against the pandemic.

Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio: "It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions, if not billions, of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong, so I'm very sceptical about what's going on in Russia.

In this handout photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, and provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund, an employee works with a coronavirus vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. Russia on Tuesday, Aug. 11 became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for use in tens of thousands of its citizens despite international skepticism about injections that have not completed clinical trials and were studied in only dozens of people for less than two months. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP)
An employee works with what is said to be a coronavirus vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. (AP)

"I would be pleased if we had an initial, good vaccine but based on everything we know – and that's the fundamental problem, namely that the Russians aren't telling us much – this has not been sufficiently tested.”

Spahn said it was “very, very important” that proper studies be carried out, adding: "It's not about being first somehow – it's about having an effective, tested and therefore safe vaccine.”

Caution urged over Russia claims

Putin emphasised that the jab he claims Russia has developed underwent the necessary tests and offers a lasting immunity from the virus.

Speaking at a government meeting, Putin said: "I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests.

"The most important thing is to ensure full safety of using the vaccine and its efficiency."

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However, scientists in the UK say no scientific evidence backing these claims has been published.

They also warn the release of a vaccine that is not safe could cause extreme damage and worsen the current situation.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said there are many vaccines in development around the world and there is an interest in it all being truly open.

He added: "The collateral damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably.

"I hope these criteria have been followed. We are all in this together.”

Potential side effects

Dr Ayfer Ali, a specialist in drug research at Warwick Business School, said the problem with fast approvals is that potential adverse effects that are rare but serious are likely to be missed.

"Another issue,” he said, “is missing potential antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), which is a phenomenon where a vaccine is not protective enough to prevent the disease but instead allows the virus to enter the body more easily and worsen the disease the vaccine is supposed to protect against.”

Ali added: "Russia is essentially conducting a large population-level experiment.”

In this handout photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, and provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund, an employee shows a new vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. Russia on Tuesday, Aug. 11 became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for use in tens of thousands of its citizens despite international skepticism about injections that have not completed clinical trials and were studied in only dozens of people for less than two months. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP)
An employee shows a new vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. (AP)

UK vaccination progress

There are hopes for a coronavirus vaccine as early as this year after human trials are reported to have shown promising results.

Researchers at the University of Oxford said in July that they believe they have made a breakthrough after discovering the jab could provide "double protection" against the virus, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said teams were working towards a "best-case scenario" of a vaccine being made available sometime this year, although conceded it was more likely in 2021.

Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain's Oxford University, showing a person working inside the lab working on a potential COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Thursday April 23, 2020.  Two volunteers have received the first vaccine trial against the COVID-19 Coronavirus on Thursday. (Oxford University Pool via AP)
A person working inside a lab at Oxford University on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. (AP)

Last month the government signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur to secure 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

A further agreement has been signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for their jab, which could produce 100 million doses for the UK.

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