"A world free of COVID-19 requires the most massive public health effort in world history," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres as the coronavirus pandemic began to threaten the planet we live on. Until now, a laboratory at Oxford University seemed to be leading the global race to find a drug to protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for coronavirus disease. However, this lab could have a competitor in Russia, as the country led by Vladimir Putin has announced that it will have the coronavirus vaccine in two weeks.
Kirill Dmitriev, executive director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funds scientific research in the country, told The National newspaper that the vaccine had been tested on both humans and animals. Dmitriev compared this event to the launch of Sputnik, saying "many people did not expect Russia to be the first country to achieve this," as was the case with the Soviet Union's launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957.
Right now, more than 100 research projects are working on finding a vaccine capable of stopping the spread of a disease, which has already infected more than 17 million people, while the global death toll exceeds 667,000. According to information available to The National, the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Russia has created this vaccine based on the knowledge acquired several years ago in the fight against Ebola, among other diseases. "We do not expect to be the only vaccine available, but definitely, according to the research I have seen, our vaccine will be the first to be approved. We believe that our vaccine is in many ways better than others and we will be completely open to building partnerships to produce it in different parts of the world," Dmitriev told the newspaper mentioned above.
The Russian research centre responsible for creating this vaccine has used two vectors of human adenomivurs, instead of one, to achieve immunity in its patients. "Gamaleya said we need to have not just one vector but two vectors, because for immunity to be durable you need a strong immune system response," stressed the director of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, who has admitted that he and his parents have already tested the effectiveness of this vaccine.
With regard to the results of the clinical trials they have highlighted that in phase 1 and 2 it has been demonstrated that "100% of the 100 people in whom the vaccine was tested generated a very high level of antibodies". We are sure that the vaccine generates antibodies," he stressed before saying that "only the next trials will show how long-lasting the effect of this vaccine is. The third phase will be carried out in Russia and other countries, notably the United Arab Emirates.
If the trial goes ahead as planned, regulatory approval will allow Russia to administer the vaccine to health workers in August. "In September we will begin a gradual mass vaccination of our population," stressed Dmitriev, who indicated that his country plans to produce up to 30 million vaccines for Russia alone over the remainder of the year and 170 million globally. Right now - according to The National - Moscow is partnering with producers in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia to ensure production of this vaccine.
Kirill Dmitriev has applauded his relationship with the United Arab Emirates, a state he has defined as a "strategic partner" for Russia. "We have clinical trials in the UAE, and it will be one of our key partner countries to work on the possible production of the vaccine. We can also supply the UAE with the Oxford vaccine which we will also produce in Russia," he said.
During his speech he thanked the UAE for being an example to follow in learning how to properly contain the pandemic. "In the first days we learned [from the UAE] that the tests are very important and we focused on them," he said. "The UAE has been at the forefront of knowledge about combating COVID-19, as well as taking action to protect its population. This is one of the reasons why the Gulf country will be one of the first to conduct clinical trials with our vaccine," he said.
In the last 24 hours, Russia has registered 5,509 new cases of coronavirus, compared to 5,475 infections and 169 deaths the day before, bringing the total to more than 834,000 people infected and around 13,800 deaths. In this context, the director of the Russian sovereign wealth fund has told both The National and CNN that he does not believe "in the monopoly of vaccines". "We believe that the more vaccines that are available, the better." Kirill Dmitriev believes that Moscow "is reaping the benefits of the investment made in science and medicine during the Soviet era. The amount invested in vaccine production is now much less than the amount used by the United States, because we have a lot of manufacturing capacity and infrastructure," he concluded.