Russia has started mass production of its second COVID-19 vaccine developed by Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Centre in Novosibirsk, despite the candidate not completing Phase 3 trials.
Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s public-health watchdog on October 27 said that output of the vaccine will be ramped up by 2020-end, Bloomberg reported. Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Center is a former biological weapons lab.
President Vladimir Putin announced approval of the vaccine on October 14. Authorities are hoping the candidate vaccines will help stall trajectory of the pandemic with minimum economic impact, the report noted.
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However, scientists and pharmaceutical companies opined more testing is necessary to prove safety and efficacy of such vaccines before use. This is the second time Russia has been accused of bypassing standard protocols after it launched widespread vaccination drive using Sputnik V in August side-by-side its Phase 3 trials.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which was also among the developers of Sputnik V, said it has submitted an application to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use and prequalification for the vaccine – a move meant to allay naysayers.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said first doses of the vaccine will be given to front-line workers and mass vaccinations will begin by December 2020 or January 2021.
Further, the country is looking to register a third vaccine developed by the Chumakov Federal Scientific Center in Moscow by December.
“Each vaccine will have its own target audience. We have the ability to produce a significant amount of vaccine without burdening a single production site,” Popova said.
With 1,537,142 cases, Russia has registered the fourth most positive cases in the world – deaths number at 26,409, as per the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.