Does Russian coronavirus vaccine work and will Ukraine buy it?

Author : Viktoria Venk

Source :

The question to the Ukrainian authorities about why not use the Russian vaccine, if it will help save lives, arises more and more often
21:17, 12 October 2020

Open source

Recently, Russia announced that it is ready to begin supplying its coronavirus vaccine to Ukraine.

Covid is gaining momentum in our country: in per capita terms, we have long overtaken Russians in new cases of the disease. Yes, and anti-records are pouring in almost daily: today, for example, we have overcome the bar of five thousand "positive" cases.

However, the Russian proposal was rejected in Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv will wait for a "proven" European or American vaccine. Which, however, are still under development and it is not known when they will be patented.

It is also unknown how many Ukrainians will get sick or die from Covid in the coming months.

Therefore, the question to the Ukrainian authorities about why not use the Russian vaccine, if it will help save lives, will surely arise more and more often.

Medvedchuk, Zelensky and antibodies

The conversation about a Russian vaccine for Ukraine was raised in Moscow. On October 6, Vladimir Putin met with one of the leaders of the Opposition Platform - For Life party, Viktor Medvedchuk. Among other topics, they touched on the topic of vaccines.

“I would like to put before you the question of the possibility of considering the fact that this vaccine would be delivered to Ukraine as well, so that Ukrainian citizens in the future would be protected from this terrible disease. Moreover, Russia is the first country that created and which has already launched the massive use of this vaccine in its territory.

Even despite the crisis relations that exist between our countries, I would like you, dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, to consider this possibility in the future, "Medvedchuk said.

“I can tell right away that such a possibility exists,” Putin replied. But he warned that this requires an official request from Kyiv.

"We need to work with specialists from Ukraine to implement this plan. It is necessary that the official authorities of Ukraine formulate their requests and needs accordingly. We are ready for this work, despite any political difficulties. Still, this is a purely humanitarian issue, a health issue, the issue of caring for people who are not indifferent to us, of course, both in Russia and in Ukraine. Therefore, we are ready for this work. But, I repeat once again, the relevant authorities need to agree at the official level," the Russian president said.

After that, Medvedchuk said that he had already been vaccinated with his wife and son during a recent vacation in Crimea.

"There was no temperature, no complications. Neither I, nor the family members had anything. That is, in fact, it was simply imperceptible for the physical condition," the Ukrainian MP said. And he said that he and his family had already developed antibodies.

Putin replied that not everything is running so smoothly - some people have fever, but then it goes away. According to him, all the heads of the special services and many ministers have already received the vaccine.

The meeting was still indicative.

Moscow, in a well-established tradition, held an audience with Ukrainian politicians whom it considers friendly. That, apparently, should strengthen the electoral support of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" on the eve of the local elections - this is how the population is clearly shown who is actually capable of reaching an agreement with Russia not only on Donbas, but also in other spheres of Ukrainian-Russian relations.

Interestingly, Volodymyr Zelensky, in fact, sought the same - a meeting with Putin on the eve of the elections. It was, of course, not about a visit to the Kremlin, but about a Normandy meeting somewhere in neutral territory.

On Bankova Street they understand that voters expect a direct conversation with the Kremlin's owner - all polls show this. Otherwise, no one believes in the chances of a lasting peace.

This is why a meeting with Putin in December helped stem the decline in Zelenskiy's rating. But this time it was not possible to repeat the success - without progress on the Minsk agreements, the Kremlin refused new personal contacts.

However, this is a political aspect.

The topic of the Russian vaccine is important in itself.

As Putin said, if the Ukrainian authorities apply, Moscow will start supplying an anti-coronavirus vaccine.

Given the situation with the coronavirus in Ukraine - new anti-records day after day - the proposal for Ukraine is at least worthy of consideration.

But here purely political moments come into play.

First, the initiative to obtain a Russian vaccine, whether it is displayed in Kyiv, is immediately torpedoed by the "war party". And its pressure on Bankova is usually perceived as a reason to bend over.

Secondly, the West will most likely try to disrupt the supply of vaccines from the Russian Federation, which plans to promote its medicines to the Ukrainian market (in the summer, the Rada approved a memorandum with the EU, according to which purchases of medicines are given to foreigners).

Related: Zelensky asked to finish 2020 ahead of schedule

It is significant that it was after the summit with the European Union that the Ukrainian president "swore allegiance" to the European vaccine, which, however, had not yet been invented.

"It was the European Union that confirmed that it will help Ukraine get a real vaccine when it appears and will not raise doubts among scientists. Therefore, I do not advise very much to believe in the election" initiatives "of individual cynics who have already been vaccinated with untested means," Zelensky said, hinting at Medvedchuk...

Europe has indeed promised Ukraine a vaccine, but only in the future.

“We expressed our readiness to cooperate to ensure access to the future vaccine against COVID-19 as a global commons at affordable prices,” reads the declaration of the Ukraine-EU summit, which took place on October 6.

However, refusing Putin's proposal, Zelensky publicly cites not a political, but a purely applied rationale - the Russian vaccine, in his words, is an "untested remedy."

Therefore, let's figure out what the Russian vaccine is.

Has Sputnik V been checked?

Note that the Russian authorities do not deny at all that they are now testing their vaccine. True, this is the last stage of testing.

Why are Sputnik V tests going on even after official registration? The fact is that this practice is worldwide. The final stage of testing is always carried out with the participation of a large number of volunteers. Why a medicine needs to be registered - that is, at least to confirm its safety. After all, no one will inject tens of thousands of people with an uncertified vaccine.

The difference with Western vaccines is that they haven't even been patented yet.

And in Russia, the last stage of testing is already underway - the most massive. To date, 40 thousand volunteers have been selected in Moscow (tests are being carried out in other regions of the Russian Federation). For the purity of the test, 10,000 of them received a placebo. At the same time, there were more willing people.

Who could become this volunteer? Adult, no anti-covid antibodies, no hepatitis C and HIV, not pregnant. Oncology is not a contraindication by default - separately in Russia, studies are conducted on cancer patients. In the same way, dosages for the future vaccination of children are being developed.

The volunteer questionnaire contains, among others, the following questions:

  • Do you donate blood as a donor?
  • Have you had chest pain attacks, myocardial infarction, stroke in the past year?
  • Are you planning surgery in the coming month?
  • Do you take any medication all the time?

All of this is relevant for research. This stage of testing, which started in September, will last 180 days. During these six months, doctors will monitor the volunteers.

In this case, the main data will be taken during the first month. Firstly, because there will be two injections - with a break of three weeks. Secondly, because during this period antibodies to Covid should be developed.

A wide range of volunteers are not paid by the Russian authorities to participate. However, the signed document states: if a citizen dies, his relatives will receive 2 million rubles, if he becomes a disabled person of group I - 1.5 million rubles.

In general, the tests are organized seriously and on a grand scale.

Some volunteers describe their feelings in the first week after vaccination as follows:

  • pain at the injection site (right shoulder),
  • temperature rise from 37 to 37.7 º C,
  • weakness,
  • feeling the first symptoms of ARVI.

But many had no symptoms at all.

Volunteers, including, were: Putin's daughter, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, most of the other ministers and governors.

Given that none of those vaccinated died, and after the tests, many publish a successful antibody test on social networks, we can conclude that so far everything is going according to plan. And it doesn't look like a giant hoax.

As part of the same trials, Russia began supplying the vaccine abroad, for example, to Belarus. This is for research on a wide group of Belarusian volunteers, not for selling.

Russian vaccine and Ukraine

The WHO has a cautiously optimistic rhetoric regarding the Russian vaccine.

Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe, visited Moscow at the end of September. As stated on the organization's website, he "highly appreciated the results of the research carried out in the Russian Federation on the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 and expressed gratitude for providing WHO with information as part of the overall effort to create a safe and effective vaccine."

But when can we buy it?

The Russians plan to begin mass vaccination after the completion of the last stage of testing - that is, at the beginning of 2021, and for free.

Then the vaccine will be available for sale on the territory of Russia, after which its supplies abroad will begin.

However, in Russia they say that it has already received applications for the purchase of 1 billion doses of vaccine from 20 countries. Among them are India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Mexico, Venezuela, Philippines, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Brazil.

Naturally, Russia itself cannot produce so many doses, so now joint production with foreign partners is being discussed.

That is, even if Kyiv decides to buy a vaccine after testing, it will have to stand in a very long queue. This means that it is necessary to agree on deliveries in advance.

Apparently, this is how Putin's proposal should be understood. And in this sense, Ukraine really needs to explore different possibilities for purchasing vaccines. Because whoever invented it, the demand will be huge. And it will be very difficult for Kyiv to vaccinate the country's population if it depends on one supplier.

Especially from the West. The story of the pandemic showed that the main supplies of everything needed to Ukraine were carried out by China. And the EU and the US were busy covering their own needs. And they thought about Ukraine last.

Related: Ukraine takes 7th place in Europe in number of Covid-19 cases

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