Sputnik V coming to the Philippines
Last week the Philippine government announced that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., and a representative from the Office of the President met separately with the Russian Embassy, and the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, to discuss arrangements that would ensure “appropriate and adequate vaccines for the population.” It appears to me like a balancing act—one from the East, the other from the West. This way, we do not offend or displease old-time friends while wanting to pursue closer ties with a new and not-too-familiar neighbor who has generously offered assistance in the fight against COVID-19. The President himself volunteered to participate in clinical trials for Sputnik V. How could we possibly not give serious consideration to the use of a Russian vaccine? Let me remind our readers of what has transpired with regard to Sputnik V.
Last month, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had granted regulatory approval for a vaccine against the coronavirus. It was named “Sputnik V” to remind people of the success of the first earth satellite launched by the USSR in 1957. The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Last Aug. 11, the Russians announced that the vaccine had passed through Phases 1 and 2 clinical trials. Russia remains the only country that has granted regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. Some Western experts were unhappy with the announcement since it did not meet their “gold standard” of clinical trials for drug development. Mass production will be done by the Russian business conglomerate Sistema. More than 20 countries, including Vietnam, have put in requests for the vaccine.
Last Friday, The Lancet, the world’s leading independent medical journal whose coverage is international in focus and covers all aspects of human health, published results of the early stage trials of the Russian vaccine. The results showed that Sputnik V produced an anti-body response in all the participants without any serious adverse effects.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said that “questions of the West that were diligently asked over the past three weeks, frankly with the clear goal of tarnishing the Russian vaccine” have been answered. “Now… we will start asking questions of some of the Western vaccines.” Dmitriev added that large-scale trials of the vaccine were launched last week and initial results are expected in October or November. Russia plans to begin mass vaccinations by year-end. It would take up to 12 months to inoculate most of Russia’s population.
In a pandemic brought about by the coronavirus with worldwide deaths moving close to the one-million mark, it is not certain what regulators will accept as proof of a successful and safe vaccine since regulators in different countries may have different standards. Last week, the Trump administration directed states to get ready to distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1. There was no mention of the vaccine’s name or what trials it had undergone but a letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield requested expediting applications for these distribution facilities. Last Aug. 28, the US Food and Drugs Administration issued an emergency use authorization to allow use of the unapproved product Remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19 hospitalized adults and pediatric patients. Remdesivir is produced by Gilead Sciences Inc., an American bio-pharmaceutical company focusing on anti-viral drugs. It is not a vaccine. It has no FDA approval.
Several vaccines are being developed by Western pharmaceutical companies. One candidate is a joint partnership product between France’s Sanofi and the United Kingdom’s GSK. Another is an Oxford University project with British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca that officials say may be available soon.
There are reports that the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, and Japan have already reserved large quantities of experimental vaccines for themselves. Even before the clinical trials of these vaccines have ended, those countries have practically cornered the initial supply. Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is worried. “We need to persuade global leaders that as soon as a vaccine becomes available in limited quantities, it needs to be shared globally.”
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