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London. The Western response to the Russian vaccine is more geopolitics than science, the British newspaper writes The Financial Times. The antiviral vaccine, based on an internationally approved vaccine against the Ebola virus, has received sharp criticism. In 1768, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great proposed herself as a test subject for the smallpox vaccine and thus wanted to show her subjects that the new medical technology was safe. To the same end, President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that his daughter was involved in a trial of a Russian vaccine against Covid-19 called Sputnik V. This was announced when Putin announced that the coronavirus vaccine was registered in Russia and approved for common use. As a result, Russia is far ahead of all other countries. But there is one problem: this vaccine is still being tested. In a few weeks, thousands of Russians will receive a dose of the drug, which is actually still in the experimental stage. Not surprisingly, the West’s response was far from congratulatory. According to Jens Spahn, the German health minister, he is “very skeptical” of such a “dangerous” decision, while his American counterpart Alex Hazard ironically remarks: “This is not a race to be first in the final.” The Kremlin does not seem to agree with Hazard. It is no coincidence that this vaccine received the same name as the Soviet satellite, which triumphed in the space race during the Cold War, leaving the United States behind. In the end, Moscow’s position looks like this: if this vaccine works, then who cares about the fact that Russia has broken the rules and received it before anyone else? Criticism of Moscow for the hasty registration of the vaccine is justified. While experts in the United States, the United Kingdom and China involved in developing competitive vaccine options are also violating long-established rules to speed up the process, Russia is completely ignoring them. The vaccine has not yet passed its third clinical phase of validation, a critical period that often lasts more than a year and involves thousands of people. Vaccination of the president’s daughter (the only side effect we were told was a slight fever that lasted one day) is a good newspaper headline, but it is not a substitute for real and randomized trials on thousands of people of different ages and with different health conditions. The hasty use of an ineffective – and at worst dangerous – vaccine could, experts say, deal a serious blow to global mass immunization efforts and prolong the paronomy of the new coronavirus. However, the mistrust that Russian specialists are capable of outpacing Western pharmaceutical companies may be rooted more in geopolitics than in science. Although Russia is not a pharmaceutical giant and a net importer of medical devices, the Moscow-based National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology Gamalei, which developed the vaccine, has been dealing with adenoviruses since the 1980s, and the vaccine Sputnik V is based on its internationally recognized Ebola vaccine. Over the past decade, Western confidence in Russia has plummeted. Convincing evidence of Russian interference in the US election, Moscow’s involvement in the assassination attempt on double agent Sergei Skripal, and the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 incident put her in that position. This kind of reaction destroyed the world’s confidence in the Kremlin. The West distrusts most Russian initiatives. When Moscow sent a medical team to help Italy fight the pandemic in March this year, some analysts warned that Russia wanted to steal military secrets. Breathing apparatus sent from Russia in the form of aid to New York has caused diplomatic headaches. The vaccine, developed in Russia, will undoubtedly join this list. Kirill Dmitriev, who heads Russia’s direct investment fund and provided funding for the development of the Sputnik V vaccine, acknowledged this and said in an interview with the Financial Times last month that he saw “coordinated (Western) efforts to counter and halt all Russian “. But that could simply mean that there will be many other places where the Russian vaccine can be delivered. The leaders of Serbia and the Philippines have already announced they will use it, while the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Mexico have agreed to participate in a vaccine trial. According to Dmitriev, 20 countries want 1 billion doses. Catherine the Great ordered the horses to be prepared to take her Scottish doctor to safety in case she died after the injection, and three decades before Edward Jenner developed a much safer smallpox vaccine. When the director of the Gamalei Institute was asked by local media how he felt when he administered the experimental preparation to Putin’s daughter, he said he did not know about it. “She was probably a volunteer,” he said. “I haven’t seen her passport.” To prove global critics wrong, Putin now needs millions of ordinary Russians to want the vaccine.
Translation and editing: Julian Markov





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