That the alleged new COVID-19 vaccine created by the Russians is called Sputnik V is not strange. The political significance of this announcement is clear: in the late 1950s, and in the middle of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the first artificial satellite launched by the USSR was called Sputnik. With this, Vladimir Putin wants to send a clear message: Russia, like the USSR, is there and is leading the race for a vaccine. Because whoever has the vaccine will not only be a medical breakthrough, but also a tremendous blow to global governance. Becoming the first country in the world to develop a vaccine is a matter of national prestige for the Kremlin and showing the world that Russia is a world power.
Earlier this week, the Russian president announced that the Gamaleya National Center for Epidemiological and Microbiological Research in Moscow had developed a vaccine against COVID-19 and received regulatory approval after less than two months of human clinical trials. Russian officials said they planned to begin mass vaccination in October. Health Minister Mikhail Murasshko said the vaccine "has proven to be highly effective and safe. Putin himself announced that his daughter had tested it. But the scientific world beyond the Urals does not have as much confidence in this vaccine and has shown concern about the speed of the drug's development. Most experts believe that getting a 100% guaranteed effective vaccine will not be possible until mid 2021.
Tarik Jasarevic, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman, said during a U.N. conference in Geneva that "pre-qualification of any vaccine includes rigorous review and evaluation of all required safety and efficacy data. Something the Russian vaccine has not done yet. According to the researchers, for a vaccine to be approved it must pass three phases: the first, which involves giving high doses to a few people to test for safety; a second in which the serum is injected into several hundred volunteers; and a final where testing needs thousands of people.
This takes time, and although achieving the cure to end the pandemic that has been hitting the entire globe since the beginning of 2020 is against the clock, it is necessary, the researchers say, that the steps be followed. According to data from the WHO, more than 150 vaccines are being developed, but only 28 are undergoing clinical trials, and among them six are already in the final phase. None of them is Spuntik V.
Reactions to Putin's statements from other world leaders were swift. U.S. President Donald Trump announced the same day Putin did that the U.S. "was very close to approving a vaccine. "We are investing in the development and manufacture of the six major candidates to ensure their rapid distribution, and the military is ready, ready to deliver the vaccine to Americans as soon as the first one is fully approved," the U.S. president said at a White House press conference. Already last month, according to the Times magazine, the United States, Britain and Canada accused Moscow of using hackers to steal research from Western laboratories.
Israel has already said it will start negotiations with Russia if it is proven that the "product is serious" and Philippine President Ricardo Duterte has announced that he will test the vaccine himself. According to Reuters, the Philippine scientists met with Russian research representatives to discuss possible participation in clinical trials. Brazil and Kazakhstan have also shown interest in this vaccine. European countries have been more cautious about this announcement. German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the vaccine had not been sufficiently tested and added that the goal was to have a safe product rather than a first one.