With the rate at which the Coronavirus is spreading, the world is really in need of a vaccine. Because of this, the world's heavyweights are in a global race. It is a race to develop an effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Early August witnessed a very important announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The announcement however, was met with some skepticism.
Russia had earlier announced that the Gamaleya research institute in conjunction with the Russian defense ministry, had been working on a vaccine.
The vaccine was named after the world's first satellite that was launched by the then Soviet Union. 'SPUTNIK V' was chosen as the name possible to pay homage to the valor shown by the Soviet Union back in the days.
President Putin announced that the regulatory body in the country had approved the vaccine. This is just less than two months after the 2nd phase of trials. According to them, the vaccine showed "stable immunity".
The question remains as to why many scientists are expressing doubts when they should be happy about the announcement.
Expert's Causes For Concern
According to WHO, there are more than 200 potential vaccines in the process of being developed worldwide. They are embarked on by various pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and other independent organizations.
The development of a vaccine would normally take time. In some cases, it can take 5-10 years before success is achieved. But the disturbing thing about how this is done is the speed with which SPUTNIK V is being developed and approved.
Although some governments have expressed an interest in buying this vaccine, the majority are seriously concerned about its safety.
Some scientists in Russia believe that Russia is only racing to be the first country to announce a vaccine. To achieve this, they are also compromising the safety of potential users.
It would normally take time to see how various people react to the vaccine and how it might affect other physiological factors.
Many have also expressed fears over the lack of transparency during the development of this vaccine. They are also concerned about the speed and haste in quickly wrapping things up.
For instance, the third stage of clinical testing has not even been completed. Little wonder why scientists are preaching caution in the reception given to this announcement.
Russia however, is planning to make the vaccine available to medical personnel as early as two weeks. Mass vaccination is also due to follow sometimes in October.
The vaccine is expected to provide immunity against the virus for at least two years.
Ideal Process Of Developing A Vaccine
The process often starts with preclinical testing. The vaccine is given to some animals like Rats or Mice to see if they trigger an immune response. When this is successful, it is ready for the first safety phase.
During the first safety phase, the vaccine is given to a small number of people. Scientists will observe if it will trigger an immune response in these people. They will also observe if it is safe to take.
When that is successful, the second safety phase is activated. This is more expanded than in the first phase. Hundreds of people, including children, adults, and the elderly are given the vaccine. The response of their immune system and the safety of the vaccine are observed.
During the third efficacy phase, thousands of volunteers are given the vaccine. Just like phase two, volunteers will cut across all age groups. Those who become infected are compared to those who don't. The response of their immune system is observed as well as the safety of the volunteers.
On successfully completing these stages, the regulatory body in each country will have to examine the results of the test. They aim to determine if they feel it is safe for the public. On determining that the vaccine is safe, approval is given to such a vaccine.
The Good News
As earlier mentioned, these stages are never rushed. They can take years to complete.
Even if you are skeptical about the SPUTNIK V, be assured that several other potentially safer vaccines are in the process of been developed. Consider some examples below:
In July, BioNTech (a German company), Pfizer (based in New York), and Fosun Pharma (a Chinese drugmaker) completed phase I/II trials in Germany and the United States.
According to their results, their vaccine produced antibodies to fight the virus in their volunteers. A few volunteers however, experienced minor side effects like sleep disturbance. It was such positive news!
Phase II/III trial is currently ongoing with 30,000 volunteers in several countries. Once this stage is successful, getting the approval of the regulatory bodies in each country is the only step remaining.
According to F.D.A, a coronavirus vaccine will be pronounced effective if it protects at least 50% of vaccinated people.
Several other combined trials are ongoing in other countries like The United States, Canada, The UK, and Germany. As the world edges closer to a much safer and WHO-approved vaccine, there is hope for millions of infected people all over the world.