The Russian Ministry of Defense says it has a new coronavirus vaccine that is already being given to troops. They say clinical trials have ended and were successful.
“The Russian Defence Ministry together with the Gamaleya [Gamalei] Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology has successfully completed clinical trials of the vaccine against COVID-19 with the participation of volunteers at the Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital,” the ministry confirmed in a statement, Kremlin-backed news website Sputnik reported.
The final assessments of the test results have been made and “without exception, all volunteers, having received immunity from the coronavirus, felt fine. Thus, the first domestic vaccine against the new coronavirus infection is ready,” the First Deputy Defense Minister of the Russian Federation, Ruslan Khadzhismelovich Tsalikov, told Moscow’s Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
The health ministry claims that “Test results clearly show that all volunteers developed an immune response as a result of vaccination” and that “There are no side effects, complications or undesirable reactions, health complaints from the volunteers at the time of discharge.”
The Russians expect to begin limited distribution of the vaccine by the middle of August with mass production, immunizing 30 million Russians, by the end of the year.
Can they be believed? Did Russia beat everyone in the race for a vaccine?
Some of their claims sound realistic and achievable.
While acknowledging more research needs to be done, the head of the 48th Central Scientific Research Institute of Russia’s defense ministry, Sergey Borisevich, noted “the volunteers produced the necessary antibodies against the coronavirus and the vaccine components are safe,” speaking to Krasnaya Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russia’s defense ministry.
Borisevich also said the antibodies produced were expected to remain in the body for a long time, noting: “The capabilities of the platform previously used to develop two Ebola vaccines and a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome [MERS] vaccine will allow the antibodies generated after vaccination to be maintained for a long time.”
Ordinarily, we would take such claims from Putin’s Russia with a great big dollop of skepticism. But almost all labs at work on a vaccine in the West are reporting favorable early results from several different vaccines. The U.S. government just inked a deal with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BioNTech to deliver 100 million vaccine doses by the end of the year.
It was the largest such deal between the government and companies racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
Under the agreement, the U.S. can acquire 500 million additional doses, the Department of Health and Human Services said. Germany-based BioNTech and Pfizer are jointly developing four potential vaccines.
Clearly, we’re approaching the finish line in the race to develop a safe, effective vaccine. No one initially believed it could be done in less than 18 months with three years being the most common estimate. It is a testament to laboratories around the world — especially in the U.S. — that worked tirelessly to bring a workable vaccine to the public. A truly amazing feat.
Credit the FDA for relaxing many of its onerous rules and regulations that force pharmaceutical companies to spend five years and a billion or more dollars to bring one drug to market. It’s hoped that loosening the requirements for bringing a vaccine to the public won’t result in unacceptable side effects.
You have to wonder whether a Biden administration would have relaxed the rules to spur the development of a vaccine. Democrats are virulently opposing any reform of liability law to protect companies like Pfizer, and those companies will be in the crosshairs of trial lawyers around the world who will be licking their chops to get into their deep pockets. There’s no reason to believe Joe Biden would have sacrificed bureaucratic procedures to develop a vaccine. Only someone wedded to the free market and who believes in it would have taken this risky step.
Will Trump get the credit? You and I both know he won’t.