- Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, called Sputnik V, is 91.6% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, according to a peer-reviewed analysis published Tuesday.
- The country approved its vaccine in August, before conducting late-stage clinical trials.
- Experts worried the controversial approach might overlook potentially dangerous side effects — but the new results indicate that Russia’s risky bet may have paid off.
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Russia became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine in August and start distributing shots in early December. Now it has some reliable data that those vaccines may be about as effective as those authorized for emergency use in the US and UK.
Unlike the US or UK, Russia approved its vaccine — called Sputnik V — before conducting phase 3 trials. These late-stage trials typically evaluate a medical treatment in tens of thousands of people to determine how well it works, ensure that it’s safe, and uncover any side effects.
When Russia approved Sputnik V for distribution, only 38 people had received the vaccine in clinical trials. All of them produced antibodies, and side effects were mostly mild — including elevated temperatures and headaches. That research had not undergone peer review, though.
As Sputnik V was distributed to frontline healthcare workers in December, medical experts warned that the data was insufficient to determine whether the vaccine was safe and effective. Some scientists suggested that the vaccine approval may have been rushed for political reasons.
But Russia’s risk seems to be paying off. An interim analysis of phase 3 trials published in The Lancet on Tuesday suggests that Sputnik V is 91.6% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
“I think everything has been done perfectly and this moment is in some ways a vindication moment,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), told Insider in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. The RDIF is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, and has overseen and financed the development of Sputnik V.
Dr. Julian Tang, a consultant virologist at the UK’s University of Leicester, told Insider the nation’s risky approach “has been justified to some extent now.”
Russia plowed forward on vaccinations, despite blowback
Sputnik V is given in two doses. Each dose relies on a different adenovirus — relatively harmless viruses associated with the common cold — to deliver a gene that codes for the coronavirus’ spike protein, which helps it attach to and invade cells. In theory, this should train the immune…
Go to the news source: Russia approved its coronavirus vaccine first, tested it after