Thursday, July 16, officials of the security services of the three countries told us that Russian hackers tried to hack the system of organizations involved in vaccine covid-19 in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
At first glance it seemed like standard story in the spirit of the cold war, with all the usual participants, except that was not enough James bond. It was attended by all the traditional elements: a secret group of Russian hackers APT29, sometimes referred to as Cozy Bear, — it is this group accused of hacking into the system of national Committee of the Democratic party in presidential elections of 2016 — as well as decisive refutation by Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian direct investment Fund (RDIF), which has invested in the development of at least one vaccine. “…Accusations regarding hacker attacks on Western pharmaceutical company — this is an attempt to tarnish the Russian vaccine”, he said.
Dmitriev, who studied at Stanford and Harvard business school tried to defend the innocence of Russia, saying on Friday, July 17, that the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, working on “the Oxford vaccine” has already been agreed to manufacture the vaccine in Russia — one of the companies that has been supported by the FUND. Meanwhile, Dmitriev also said that he believes the Russian vaccine is more effective — so effective that he and his elderly parents have already instilled in her.
However, Dmitriev insists that in this story, countries will have to “pick a side”, that is, they will have to decide which product they will buy for vaccination. From his point of view, now comes the question of the race of the superpowers, which involves the United States, China, the United Kingdom and, of course, Russia.
This approach to domination of the market echoes announced in March a proposal by Donald trump to pay “a large sum of money” to a German company, to be the first to stake out the right to a vaccine candidate. Or his recent attempts to make almost public ramdevpir that control the quality of food and medicines was allowed to use in emergencies for treatment covid-19, went mostly to Americans.
However, insistence Dmitriev “pick a side” and trompovsky approach “buy everything” based on incorrect assumptions. What would be a strangely soothing or at least familiar or had a history of superpowers seeking to dominate the world, it does not fit the reality of medical research and discovery. Advances in medicine helped save countless lives and earn billions of dollars and to glorify dozens of scientists. But, unlike the arms race or the space race, in which there were only two opponents with deep pockets and the desire to control the world in the medical field in the race always involves many companies, countries and international organizations. And they inevitably can and will beg, borrow and steal achievements from each other.
You will not be able to think of examples of competing commercial companies trying to “grab a piece of the pie”, when it created the atomic bomb or when space went to “mercury-1”. But in the medical world they are. And a lot of them.
Think of the drug as the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine), which appeared in the 1980-ies and became one of the first drugs that allowed to make billions of dollars. For several years he was the only available drug in its class, but then the market caught up, and generic drugs were rapidly capture their share. The same thing happened with statins. And antibiotics. And hypnotic drugs. And drugs heartburn. Yes, the first approved drug in its class, bringing the first billion dollars, but then the game joins a host of other participants.
Of course, an acute need in creation of a vaccine from covid-19 and that as soon as possible to introduce this vaccine to millions of people, in a sense, changes the situation. By July 15 we had 23 vaccines in clinical trials on humans, and 140 vaccines in various stages of pre-clinical studies, as reported by the world health organization.
Given the current public health crisis, the need to derive political benefits out of the situation and our chronically unbalanced perception of risks and benefits, many of these vaccines are likely to be approved or at least get permission for an emergency application from the control behind quality of foodstuff and medicines. In addition, Russia and some other countries have less strict permit system. According to Dmitriev, between the first phase of clinical trials of the Russian vaccine and the start of mass use of this vaccine in Russia will be held just a few months — unheard of speed by the standards of the West. This approach can be seen in the long history of the development of other drugs that are used in desperate situations, especially in the treatment of cancer, when boundaries become permeable and when drugs approved in one country, quickly enter the following.
Such unique conditions will probably lead to the fact that many vaccines will somehow become available. Their evaluation will be fraught with certain difficulties and will be subject to many disputes among the experts, but if we’re lucky, the efficacy of first generation vaccines against covid-19 will be 50-60%, which is comparable with the effectiveness of flu vaccines in the good years. Let’s hope that the side effects would also be moderate even though the new product of Moderna, which will soon move to the third phase of clinical trials, 21% of cases, causing “severe side effects” including severe fatigue, headaches and chills.
And we haven’t even begun to discuss the question of re-vaccination and to understand how secure and it is desirable to introduce first one vaccine (for example, Oxford), and then another (for example, a vaccine company Moderna) in the hope to obtain a more robust immune system.
I believe that very soon we will move to a stage of universal access to vaccines despite the fact that preferences are based on very limited information. The recent “debate” regarding the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of covid-19 shall be darkened in comparison with the “national discussion” — is not supported by substantial array of data and performed the personal opinions of individual people — which will begin very soon.
It remains unclear what kind of information I managed to get the Russian hackers in the course of its intended attack, if it was at all. Given the inevitable confusion that lies ahead, to find a starting point for some kind of explanation just doesn’t make sense — at least from the point of view of financial benefit or from the point of view of saving lives. However, the desire to dominate, announced by trump and Dmitriev, makes possible the causes of any of the secret invasion is evident. Here it is not so much about how to save the world by creating a vaccine, but about how to beat an opponent and take home the gold medal.