Russia’s pioneering ‘Sputnik V’ coronavirus vaccine may prove to be a medical success, but it’s dangerous to expect the formula to be a ‘silver bullet’ which will magically restore normal pre-pandemic life, an expert has warned.
Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan told RT that it’s the lack of transparency about the product’s development rather than doubts about the scientific part of the development that has made some scientists wary. Balakrishnan recently authored a piece in respected British medical journal The Lancet about the controversy over the formula.
Russia sparked international criticism in August after it registered a Covid-19 vaccine dubbed Sputnik V before a large-scale phase-three clinical trial. The developers convinced the regulator that, since it was based on a previously proven platform, smaller-scale studies were sufficient proof of the formulation’s safety. A full trial of its efficacy is currently underway, with results expected to be reported within weeks.
Provided the vaccine is tested properly and transparently, “the chances of success are going to be high” for Sputnik V, no matter the rhetoric, believes Balakrishnan.
“Experts I have been speaking with for my Lancet reporting are convinced about the platform that [the creators] have been using to develop the Sputnik V vaccine,” he said.
Sputnik V uses two kinds of adenovirus – a well-studied type of virus that can cause symptoms of the common cold – to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genes into the human body. It allows the immune system to train to fight it, in preparation for dealing with the real-deal Covid-19 infection.
Balakrishnan warned that, while there is reasonable certainty that a number of the vaccines being trialed across the world will succeed, that doesn’t mean people will simply be able to live as they did before the pandemic. “It’s not like: OK, now I have the vaccine so I can remove the mask and be in the crowd,” he said.
“Until scientists do long-term studies on the life of these vaccines within our body, I don’t think we can believe that, once taken, even with booster doses, it would protect us from Covid-19 infection long-term,” he explained.
The situation may be more like that of the flu, which requires a new vaccine every season. So, uncomfortable as they are, masks in public places, and some social-distancing measures, may be here to stay – even with a vaccine.
Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first in the world, will cost less than 1,000 rubles, or $13, per dose, says the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). Despite a low price by Western standards, FAS believes the current price is steep
This price is certainly higher than the proposed AstaZeneca vaccine which has been slated for sale at a lower price. EU countries have agreed to pay 2.5 euros ($2.92) per dose. However mass trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been put on hold in the US, though continuing in other countries, pending further investigation a one bad reaction to a triallist in England.
“We understand that the price (of Sputnik V) is quite high,” said Igor Artemyev, the head of FAS. “[The vaccine is] produced in relatively small batches, and they need capital to expand production.”
According to Artemyev, the cost of a dose will reduce as production increases and the vaccine becomes more readily available. The country will also revisit the price when other countries produce their own versions of a Covid-19 vaccine.