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Russia COVID-19 vaccine appears to lack crucial data

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool)

Russia says they have a vaccine that’s ready to go, except it hasn’t quite been tested. So how realistic is it, and does it meet the American standard for testing?

“This vaccine hasn’t been tested, and they only really started with it two months ago,” Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen told Seattle’s Morning News. “So there is no data to show that this vaccine works, but Vladimir Putin has announced that they’re releasing it. It was produced by Moscow’s Gamalei Institute, and they expect it to be into mass production by the end of the year.”

Regarding the testing, do they not have some indication that it creates antibodies?

“Well, they haven’t released any data. What they’re saying is that it’s based on a platform that was actually developed by Russian scientists 20 years ago, and they claim it’s the basis for several vaccines that they have developed in the past, including those against Ebola. Although there’s really no good vaccination for Ebola, so I’m not really sure what they’re talking about,” Cohen said.

How long will COVID-19 be around after we develop a vaccine?

“But basically, they plan to produce a billion doses and they’re going to produce the vaccine in Brazil and they’re going to send it all around the world,” he added. “The problem is that when we do clinical trials, we try to say that something is safe before we give it an effective, and they haven’t proven either of these things … they’ve only given it to a small number of people.”

Dr. Cohen says the scientific community is generally skeptical of the announcement, and finds it to be an irresponsible move.

“What Putin said on state television is, ‘I know that it works quite effectively, it formed strong immunity, and I repeat that it has passed all the needed checks.’ Well, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything. And so scientists from all around the world are pointing out this is really a reckless and foolish decision. A lot of people feel that mass vaccination with an improperly tested vaccine is really unethical,” Dr. Cohen said.

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“If there’s a problem with this Russian vaccination campaign, it could be disastrous both through its negative effects on people’s health — whether it’s side effects or other things that are unanticipated — but also because it could potentially set back the acceptance of vaccines in the population when there’s already sort of a general angst and skepticism that people have over vaccines in general anyway. So there really could be a lot of collateral damage from deploying any vaccine that’s not yet known to be safe and effective, and it potentially could exacerbate our current problems.”

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