World-leading academic journal Nature has published a new analysis of Russia’s flagship coronavirus jab, Sputnik V, saying its efficacy has been demonstrated despite the EU and others dragging their feet on approving it for use.
The article, published on Tuesday by Australian science journalist Bianca Nogrady, describes the formula, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, as “the subject of fascination and controversy since the Russian government authorized its use last year, before early-stage trial results were published.” The news that the country had become the first in the world to register a jab against the virus was met with a mixture of surprise and derision by Western commenters.
However, Nogrady goes on to say, “evidence from Russia and many other countries now suggests it is safe and effective.” Approved in 67 countries, and with all published data seemingly, Nature believes there is little doubt that the vaccine works.
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Despite a number of companies in the EU vying for the rights to manufacture Sputnik V, the bloc’s central regulator, the European Medicines Agency, is still conducting a drawn-out review of the evidence behind the jab. Two member states, Hungary and Slovakia, have jumped the gun and begun including the Moscow-made formula in their national immunization programs.
However, the article notes, there are still some questions about monitoring for side effects, which are thought to be similar to such formulas as those made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. While some vaccines, most notably AstraZeneca’s, have been thought to be associated with very rare side effects such as blood clots, Russian scientists have insisted that there is no record of major adverse events from their jab.
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Revealing in June that he himself had received two doses of Sputnik V, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “now more than 20 million – 23 million – … have already been vaccinated [in Russia]… you can see everything is fine with us. Thank God, we haven’t had such tragic situations after vaccination, as [have occasionally been seen] following the use of AstraZeneca or Pfizer elsewhere.”
For the EMA, Nogrady notes, this could be a sign that Russia’s population surveillance system is not robust enough to detect any cases. However, she notes, several studies are underway in countries that have already approved the jab, like Argentina, Venezuela and Turkey, so more evidence will be soon available to wary regulators.
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