The New Observer Media Comment Russia’s Coronavirus vaccine

Russia’s Coronavirus vaccine

Russia has announced that they have developed an effective vaccine for Coronavirus. It has been tested on a thousand volunteers and found to produce high levels of antibodies and not cause serious side-effects.

Of course the West is up in arms. There has been a world-wide race to be the first to market an effective coronavirus vaccine. Matt Hancock has been positively drooling about how this would make Britain great. Russia has coolly stolen a march on everyone by approving their vaccine after Phase 2 trials and not waiting for Phase 3. However; it isn’t quite as reckless as the Western propaganda machine would like you to believe. Full-scale inoculation is not scheduled to begin in Russia until January next year and they are continuing to run tests. In other words, the situation is not all that different from the Oxford vaccine – which is currently being given to tens of thousands of people in Brazil and South Africa. Obviously it is completely safe for them. Or the US where they are currently talking about rolling out a vaccine by December (before Russia).

This is an article in the Guardian trying to present this purely commercial reaction as a concern about “ethics”.

The author, the Guardian’s “Senior Reporter” Peter Beaumont, says: “Sputnik V’s [the vaccine] development has been marked by worrying opacity and ethical issues”. Of course; this is not objectively speaking but from the point of view of the Western pharma-scientists who are all now worried about losing market share. The claim about “opacity” is absurd. All the Western manufacturers are planning no doubt to patent their products. I don’t know but I doubt that, for example, US company Moderna who is working on a genetic vaccine is sharing all their technologies openly. (Their website is certainly very coy about their actual methods in general).

Further extracts and comments:

As Russia’s Association of Clinical Trials Organizations put it in late May – after the head of the Gamaleya Institute said he and his colleagues had tried the vaccine on themselves – early testing was a “crude violation” of research norms by scientists under immense pressure to “please those [in] power”.

In fact such testing on oneself has a noble history in medicine. [1]

Tests on volunteers, including in the military, also raised ethical issues, including whether some had been pressurised to participate or felt pressured not to describe side effects, given the difference in responses given by those in the military and by civilians.

Let’s not talk about the UK’s history of testing chemical weapons on young British soldiers.

Russian officials have expressed a hope that the antibody response that it provokes might last up to two years, despite a lack of strong evidence to back that up. In fact, little is known about how long antibodies against coronavirus last in the body, what protection they confer, or for how long.

This is completely true. But then precisely the same criticism can be leveled at any of the virus candidates. But Peter Beaumont knows who he works for and he won’t be saying this about the Oxford vaccine.

A bad vaccine, far from helping, might ultimately encourage higher rates of vaccine hesitancy among the public against later vaccines that are actually effective, suggests Matthew Schmidt, an expert on Russia at New Haven University.

I love “expert on Russia” (What does this mean? Can you have an “expert on America?” Or can only Russia be objectified in this way? And, curiously, why is an “expert on Russia” being consulted about what is in fact a question of virology and Public Health? – not because he could be relied on to say something negative about Russia by any chance?) At any event this may be true to the extent that if the Russian vaccine does turn out to cause thousands of deaths then that could conceivably have a world-wide effect to put people off vaccines in general. On the other hand; the Oxford vaccine group are currently testing their vaccine on tens of thousands of people in Brazil and South Africa and if a lot of them die that will also have a negative effect. In fact the statements from Russia are that their vaccine is not going to be rolled out to the public until January and they are continuing to test it. There are therefore a lot of jumps being made here; the Russian vaccine will be “bad”,  that is seriously bad with many serious adverse events, the “badness” will not be picked up by the Russians at an early stage e.g. by their testing, and that all this will have a  significant effect on the Western public.

Nope. Mr Beaumont, you are just writing more black propaganda about Russia to get your paycheck.