Russia Is Already Vaccinating Its Citizens With ‘Sputnik V’

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service / AP | Alexander Shcherbak / TASS

Although Sputnik V, the Russian candidate vaccine, is still in phase III of clinical trials, people in Russia are already being vaccinated with it.

Since summer, the Russian authorities have been giving Sputnik V to teachers and medics – over 50,000 of them so far, in fact – according to the head of the lab behind the vaccine, even though these people were not part of the ongoing clinical trials.

Notably, Russian officials said this week that 3 out of 42 medics in Siberia who had received the vaccine still became infected after taking the first shot; Sputnik V is a two-dose vaccine.

However, the officials said that the drug didn’t work because it did not have a chance to do so, not because it was ineffective, according to Russian media.

In contrast, the regulatory bodies of Western countries with pharmaceutical companies working on a vaccine for the virus have not given the companies the green light to vaccinate people outside clinical trials.

Footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry to AP on July 15, 2020,
Volunteers participate in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP.

This includes Pfizer, which has already begun manufacturing its vaccine on a wide scale as testing continues.

With that said, Sputnik V is no stranger to controversy. Experts have pointed out that the number of cases (20), on which the estimation that the drug was 92% effective was too low, casting doubt on the accuracy of the claim.

Stephen Evans, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a statement commenting on the recent results announced by the company behind Sputnik V that more work was required.

“Further follow-up is needed because the results are compatible with a much slower efficacy – 60% – based on these data,” he said, reflecting the position of other scientists who have made similar remarks.

All things considered, the World Health Organization doesn’t expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 before mid-2021.