02 February 2021
Russian scientists say the country's Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19. The news will help sell the vaccine to other countries in the race against the pandemic.
Researchers say the vaccine is about 91 percent effective based on a trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia. It appears to prevent people who have received the shot from becoming ill with COVID-19. It remains unclear, however, if Sputnik V can stop the virus from spreading.
The study was first announced last December. It was published Tuesday in the British medical paper The Lancet.
Scientists who are not linked to the research have criticized Russian efforts to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. They said it was made and released in a hurry without any information.
Last August, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on national television that Russia became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. He said one of his daughters had already received the two shots. At the time, the vaccine had only been tested on less than 50 people.
"But the outcome reported here is clear," British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote about the study. They said it is another vaccine to "join the fight" against the coronavirus.
Kirill Dmitriev is head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, the organization that paid for the vaccine's development.
"Russia was right from the very beginning," he said.
The fund says Sputnik V has been approved for emergency use in more than 12 other countries. They include the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Armenia and Turkmenistan; Latin American nations including Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela; African nations such as Algeria as well as Serbia, Iran, Palestine and United Arab Emirates.
An RDIF spokesman told The Associated Press that more than 50 countries have requested to buy 2.4 billion doses.
The vaccine study
The latest study is based on research involving about 20,000 people over 18 at hospitals in Moscow between September and November. About 75 percent of the people received two shots of the vaccine 21 days apart and the rest got a placebo – a shot with an inactive substance.
Serious side effects were rare in both groups. Only four deaths were reported, although none were considered to come from the vaccine.
The study included more than 2,100 people over age 60 and the vaccine appeared to be about 92 percent effective in them. The research is continuing. But Russia's Health Ministry said in December it was cutting the size of the study from the planned 40,000 subjects to about 31,000 because some people left the study.
The first shot of the Russian vaccine uses a common cold-causing adenovirus to carry genes that prepare the human body to fight against COVID-19. That is similar to the two-shot vaccine developed by Britain's Oxford University-AstraZeneca.
Unlike the British vaccine, Sputnik V uses a different version of adenovirus for its second shot.
Alexander Edwards is an associate professor in biomedical technology at Britain's University of Reading. He said the two different versions of adenovirus led to higher immune response against the coronavirus. Edwards is not connected to the Russian study.
Polly Roy is a professor of virology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She said there should no longer be any concerns about the Russian vaccine.
She said the high level of antibodies made by Sputnik V suggest that it could also protect against some of the new COVID-19 variants. But more studies are needed to confirm that.
"Initially, I had some concerns about what they were saying and thought they were getting too much publicity, but the data are now very strong," Roy said.
Last month, Putin ordered a large vaccination campaign to begin in Russia.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
dose – n. the amount of medication a person take at one time
placebo – n. a pill without medicine used in medical tests
immune – adj. resistant to an infection
variant – n. a different form of something
initially - adv. to begin with
publicity – n. notice or attention given to someone or something by the media
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