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'No evidence' Russia's coronavirus vaccine is safe and 'could make things worse'
11 August 2020, 14:12
UK scientists are urging caution over Russia's new coronavirus vaccine, saying there is no evidence that suggests it is safe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Covid-19 vaccine developed in the country - and the first in the world - has been registered for use and one of his daughters has already been inoculated.
But despite his claims the jab underwent the necessary tests, UK experts say the evidence to back this up has not been published.
They also warn that the release of a vaccine that is not safe could cause extreme damage and worsen the current situation, with one expert warning: "Russia is essentially conducting a large population level experiment."
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said there are many vaccines in development around the world and there is an interest in it all being a truly open.
He added: "While information on the vast majority of the vaccines and trial protocols in the world have been made available, there seems to be rather little detail thus far on the Russian candidates, except for a protocol on Clintrials.gov, which seemed to suggest an adenovirus vector.
"The bar is necessarily set very high for criteria that must be satisfied for approval after Phase 3 clinical trials.
"The collateral damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably.
"I hope these criteria have been followed. We are all in this together."
Speaking at a government meeting, Mr Putin said: "I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests.
"The most important thing is to ensure full safety of using the vaccine and its efficiency."
But details of these tests do not appear to have been made available to the research community.
And there are also concerns about the way Russia has been reporting the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
The World Health Organisation has said all vaccine candidates should go through full stages of testing before being rolled out.
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, said: "It is unclear precisely what is actually happening with the Russian vaccine.
"At this point in time, there is no data on the Russian-led vaccine for the global health community to scrutinise.
"There have been lessons learned from previous vaccine roll-outs, that were usurped by anti-vaccination activists and population health has greatly suffered."
Dr Ayfer Ali, a specialist in drug research at Warwick Business School, said the problem with fast approvals is that potential adverse effects which are rare but serious are likely to be missed.
He explained: "Another issue is missing potential antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) which is a phenomenon where a vaccine is not protective enough to prevent the disease but instead allows the virus to enter the body more easily and worsen the disease the vaccine is supposed to protect against."
Dr Ali said this had already been observed in a animal models of non-Covid-19 coronavirus vaccines.