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Russia not the world's first to develop COVID-19 vaccine: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Referring to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russian state-backed Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said the world had not seen any data from the candidate’s human trials.

August 17, 2020 / 11:56 AM IST

Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has questioned claims of Russia developing the world's first vaccine against COVID-19, citing absence of clinical trials data on and "more advanced" programmes elsewhere.

Referring to the novel coronavirus vaccine developed by Moscow-based Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, Mazumdar-Shaw said that the world had not seen any data from the vaccine candidate’s phase-I and phase-II human trials.

"If launching a vaccine prior to completion of Phase-III trials is acceptable to Russia, well so be it," Mazumdar-Shaw told news agency PTI.

"But it doesn't make them the world's first vaccine as several other vaccine programmes are even more advanced," she added.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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On August 11, Russia had announced that it had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine called ‘Sputnik-V’. Gamaleya institute, which has developed the vaccine, works under the Russian Healthcare Ministry.

The first dose of the vaccine was reportedly administered to Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughter. Putin had also claimed, without any evidence, that the immunization provided by the vaccine protects people for up to two years.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the Russian vaccine is not among the nine it considers to be in advanced stages of testing.

“We don't have sufficient information at this point to make a judgment” on the Russia vaccine, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO's director-general.

Also Read - Explainer | Russia's COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V: How safe is it? And why India needs to be cautious

Sputnik-V is a so-called viral vector vaccine which is based on human adenovirus fused with SARS CoV-2’s spike protein to stimulate an immune response in the body. It is said to be similar to a vaccine candidate being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics.

It was earlier reported that a number of individuals belonging to Russia’s political and business elite had been given early access to the experimental vaccine. Russian billionaires and government officials reportedly started getting shots of a potential vaccine as early as April.

More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed around the world to try to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. At least four are in final phase-III human trials, according to WHO data.

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first published: Aug 13, 2020 05:26 pm
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