While the world hangs in balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, Russian scientists have come to our rescue! Scientists at the Sechenov University, Russia, have claimed that they have completed the human trials of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine on Sunday, 12 July 2020. The Russian Health Ministry on June 16 had sanctioned the human trials for the vaccine. The first batch of 18 volunteers were vaccinated on June 18, and the second batch of 20 volunteers was vaccinated on 20 June at the Practical Research Center for Intervention Cardiovasology, Sechenov University, Russia.
A world renowned Russian news agency Sputnik News, stated that history has been made, and the trials for the world’s first coronavirus vaccine had been completed successfully in humans. The viral strain used in the vaccine trials is manufactured by the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. In his statement to the ANI agency, Dr. Vadim Tarasov, director of the institute for Translational Medicine and Biotechnology, said that the first batch of volunteers will be discharged on 15 July, and the second batch on 20 July. Furthermore, the Russian Health Ministry has reported that as of 10 July no major side-effects have been observed in the patients.
According to Dr. Alexander Lukaschev, director of the Institute of Medical Parasitology, Tropical, and Vector-Borne Dieseases at Sechenov University, the Russian coronavirus vaccine is as per the safety standard of the vaccines for other diseases already sold in the market. In the human trial of the coronavirus vaccine, the volunteers were injected with the viral strain to examine any side-effects of the vaccine, and the dosage required. This approach of inventing a vaccine has been used for years and has lead to the development of vaccines against several infectious diseases such as typhoid, malaria, seasonal flu, etc.
The head of the Center for Clinical Research on Medications, at Sechenov University, Dr. Smolyarchuk said in a statement, that the volunteers will continue to be under medical supervision even after their discharge as out-patients. Dr. Smolyarchuk told a leading news agency TASS on June 30, that the human trials are going well and none of the patients have experienced any adverse conditions besides the mild side-effects. After injection of the coronavirus vaccine, the patients might experience some systemic and local post-vaccine reactions, but they’re only mild and disappear on their own.
According to Gamaleya’s director Alexander Gintsburg, the vaccine will protect the recipient against coronavirus for up to two years. In his statement to TASS, DR. Alexander Gintsburg stated that “the vaccine is given twice with the same gene injected using different carriers, which allows not just to get protective immunity, but to also acquire it for a longer time.”
According to the registry of ongoing clinical trials run by the US National Library of Medicine (ClinicalTrials.gov) the Sechenov study is still under the PHASE-I of human trials. The Russian coronavirus vaccine is listed as a two-stage human trial vaccine under the name of ‘Gam-COVID-Vac Lyo.’ Also, according to the WHO document on ‘Draft Landscape of COVID-19 vaccines,’ the Gamaleya vaccine is stated to be still under PHASE-I of human trials. In this phase of human trials, only a small batch of 20-80 volunteers are allowed to be injected with the vaccine and studied. Further human trials for a vaccine can go on for years, and that’s why it takes at least 10-15 years for most vaccines to be released in the market.
Russia is not the only country trying to secure the first position in the race of developing a coronavirus vaccine. Other institutes such as Gilead Sciences, Oxford University and the American Biotech Company Moderna too have been on their toes trying to search for a cure. To this date, WHO has given the status of PHASE-III human trials to only two coronavirus vaccines. These are, the Chinese coronavirus vaccine named “Sinovac,” and the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca. With further human trials still needed to be processed further, a coronavirus vaccine might not be available in the market till the end of 2020. Till the time the scientists discover a new coronavirus vaccine, we can play our part as responsible citizens by following the CDC social distancing guidelines, staying away from COVID-19 myths and avoiding foods which hurt our immunity. Nevertheless, this news has indubitably filled the world with the hope that we will soon overcome this pandemic. The coronavirus may try to sway us all it wants, but our scientists will definitely come up with a vaccine soon that hits on all cylinders!