Russian COVID-19 vaccine needs to be assessed, says AIIMS Director
Russia is taking long strides in, what it claims to be, the world's first officially-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The promises made by the country on the basis of this shot are humongous, but experts remain skeptical over their fast-tracked approach, including Dr. Randeep Guleria, the Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. Here's what he said on the vaccine.
Speaking to ANI, Dr. Guleria expressed wariness over the Russian vaccine, noting that they will have to examine the shot closely to make sure if it works, with complete safety. "We will have to see critically whether it is safe and effective," he stated. "There should not be any side effects of the vaccine and it should provide good immunity and protection."
Dr. Guleria emphasized that if the safety and efficacy of the Russian shot are proven, the trials could be fast-tracked and India could have a vaccine sooner than currently expected. "India has the capacity for mass production of the vaccine," but before that, these two elements - safety and efficacy - should be clear in the scientific world, he added.
Dr. Guleria's remarks echo the concerns of several scientists who have been startled by Russia's decision to officially approve the vaccine, now called Sputnik V, for civilian use. The shot has been clinically tested for less than two months - a process that typically takes several months - and there is no public peer-reviewed data on how effectively and safely it works.
Obviously, the data from human trials is necessary to answer critical efficacy questions like what a vaccine does (prevent the infection or sickness) and how long the immunity from it lasts. "I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective. I seriously doubt that they've done that," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert.
Even with all the concerns, Russia continues to proceed with the shot, which has been developed by Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. It is currently in the final phase of human trials, which will be continued in parallel with the manufacturing and voluntary inoculation of high-risk groups such as medical professionals, senior citizens. In October, they plan to begin mass-immunization drives.
Meanwhile, when announcing the vaccine on August 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the shot "forms a stable immunity," has passed all necessary tests, and one of his two daughters has already been inoculated with it. She is feeling fine, he had said.