While UK scientists have proclaimed Russia’s new coronavirus vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ safe, they have also said that it requires further testing before it can be released to the public. A study in Lancet has found that the vaccine produces two types of immune response to the coronavirus. Nevertheless, the vaccine has only undergone 2 trials involving just 76 people.
The drug will now move to a larger phase 3 trial, which will involve thousands of participants. This news has been welcomed by UK scientists amid a spike in the number of cases in the country. In fact, they have already been in touch with Moscow’s Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which is currently working on the vaccine.
The 2 initial phases of the trial have found that the vaccine stimulates a T-Cell response and an antibody response. One part of the trials tested a frozen formulation of the vaccine for large-scale distribution, and the other involved a more-stable freeze-dried formulation, which would be used in remote regions.
While the vaccine is said to have had a good safety profile at 42 days after administration, it did produce mild side effects. These included pain at the site of the injection, elevated temperature and headaches. This is in line with the experience of President Vladimir Putin’s daughter who tried the vaccine. “After the first injection her temperature was 38 degrees, the next day 37.5, and that was it. After the second injection her temperature went up slightly, then back to normal,” Putin said at a press conference last month.
On the other hand, independent experts have said that the results of the trials may have been affected by the fact that the participants were aware that they were getting a vaccine and were not chosen at random. According to data from Supplement Nation, we are likely to have to wait for phase 3 of the trial before the vaccine is released for public use, with experts from countries such as Australia and the US expressing concern about its safety. “Until then, the best strategy is keeping our immunity up as much as possible by consuming nutritious food and ignesting supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin C and vitamin E,” said a representative from the company.
Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton Dr Michael Head said that public confidence in the new vaccine is crucial. “Phase 1 and phase 2 trials have been carried out, and there is sufficient reason to scale up into much larger phase 3 trials … At this stage, we do not know if the vaccine actually works – that is what the phase 3 trials will tell us.”
Professor Eleanor Riley, from the University of Edinburgh, commented, “The key question is whether the next step for this vaccine is indeed a randomised, blinded, placebo controlled phase 3 trial or whether the vaccine developers will come under political pressure to release doses of vaccine for administration to the general public. The approval granted for the vaccine – apparently under a law introduced after the onset of the pandemic – allows for both.”