Russia’s Rushed Vaccine
By Lily Erb, Content Writer
Russia’s announcement that they have produced a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 has left the world confused and alarmed. Russia’s vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V, is the first vaccine approved for the public. It has not undergone the third phase of testing that most vaccine trials go through. Although Russia’s vaccine has only been tested on 76 people, full scale production will begin in September.
The United States has set up OWS, or Operation Warp Speed. OWS is a multi-agency body dedicated to accelerating the production of a COVID-19 vaccine. Russian officials reached out to OWS and offered their cooperation, which the United States turned down. According to CNN, the United States is “not currently open” to Russian medical advances.
The third phase of vaccine testing is the largest phase, with the largest sample of people being tested in order to insure the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. In the third phase, the vaccine is administered to thousands of people. According to the FDA, a vaccine must protect at least 50% of vaccinated people in order to be effective. Because vaccines are intended to be given to large masses of healthy people, it is imperative to know not only how well it works, but also any potential side effects. According to the NY Times, even if a vaccine produces promising data in the preliminary trials, it can still flop during phase three trials. It is not impossible that Russia’s vaccine is both effective and safe. However, without large scale testing, it is impossible to say for sure how effective and how safe the treatment is.
Some believe that Putin is making a political statement by announcing the world’s first vaccine. Putin announced that he would give the vaccine to other countries in October or November, a time that suspiciously lines up with the American presidential elections. If the vaccine becomes a political badge, it becomes another pressure point in the long term Cold War dispute between America and Russia. American scientists worry that politics might put pressure on them, affecting the vaccine trials even further.
Failure of Russia’s vaccine could harm other countries’ efforts to find a treatment. If the Russian vaccine fails, public mistrust of treatment could rise. People will no longer want a vaccine if they believe it will be harmful or ineffective. If nobody is willing to get a vaccine, we will not be able to control the pandemic until we achieve herd immunity. Because of the lack of testing, we have no idea whether Sputnik V will fly or crash.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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