In early August, Russia announced the registration of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. However, the development has faced negative reactions from the West. The Americans and Germans have criticised the Russian development, warning about "dangerous decisions", "Russian roulette" and "pressure" from Moscow.
A reasonable question arises: how has Russia managed to advance so quickly in vaccine development, outrunning others?
According to Greek doctor Petros Arkumanis, the Russian vaccine is a variety of the vaccine against SARS and MERS, the oldest coronaviruses whose vaccine development has never been finished.
"Russian scientists have used the technology they designed during the first two phases of developing the vaccine against these already studied viruses. This explains such rapid results", he explained.
According to him, the secret of the Russian vaccine is in the adenovirus.
"Adenovirus is a virus that causes the so-called common cold. Imagine that this virus has a lifeless part of COVID-19 stuck onto it. This way the body can acquire antibodies", he said, noting that this technology "is similar to that used by the West, but Russian scientists have used two different human adenoviruses that cause common cold".
"[They have used] two adenoviruses from different ‘regions’ to find one unfamiliar to the body to produce immune response", Arkumanis explained.
This is the difference between the Russian vaccine and the vaccines developed in the UK and China.
"The Chinese use the human adenovirus as a 'carrier', while the British use the chimpanzee adenovirus", the doctor said, adding that the safety of introducing the chimpanzee adenovirus into humans has yet to be demonstrated.
"Greece hopes that this vaccine will be safe since it wants to buy it. But it still has to be proven", he stressed.
At the same time, Arkumanis recalled the contribution to science on the part of the Gamaleya Centre, which develops vaccines against deadly diseases.
"Since the Soviet times, the Gamaleya Institute has been conducting scientific activities regarding vaccine development, for example, against smallpox and Ebola. Many world-renowned scientists have been involved in the vaccine development process. This should be taken into account", the Greek doctor said.
To those accusing Russia of being too quick, he said that everything is happening within Russian legislation.
"Russian legislation provides for the vaccine’s compulsory licensing by the Ministry of Health after the second phase of testing to move on to the third one, that which implies larger-scale studies involving doctors and professors", Arkumanis explained.
Then, potential side effects, if any, will be studied, especially in risk groups.
Speaking of how quickly the vaccine can appear on the market, the Greek doctor said that it all depends on when the studies are completed.
According to the Russian Ministry of Health, the vaccine provides two years of immunity.
"This is supported by the technology associated with previous vaccines that provide immunity and antibodies over some period of time. I mean SARS and MERS", Petros Arkumanis stressed.