Der Spiegel (Germany): Putin dreams of “time satellite”

When Alexander Ginsburg introduced his vaccine against coronavirus, it is not even tested on monkeys. It’s been four months, a microbiologist and Director of the National research center named after Gamalei feels great. According to him, about a hundred of its employees have voluntarily subjected themselves to vaccination. All alive and well.

Ginsburg is working on so-called vector vaccine in which the genetic material of the virus Sars-CoV-2 is introduced into a harmless virus carrier, this should facilitate the production of antibodies and immunity in humans. That introduce themselves under development substance recklessly, 68-year-old scientist even not want to hear. “I want to protect themselves and their employees.” He claims the vaccine is reliable and effective. After all, he had once had developed an effective vaccine.

The Russian government is seeking as soon as possible to allow the vaccine Ginzburg for use in medical practice. The Ministry of health say that the decision is expected any day now. When a vaccine is approved, it will be the first vaccinated doctors and teachers. It is unclear whether vaccination is a volunteer.

The example of Russia shows that the global race to develop a vaccine against covid-19 all accelerated, fueled among other things such autocratic countries as Russia and China, are not very scrupulous in the observance of the medical and ethical standards. For Moscow and Beijing breakthrough in the research will mean that they can faster than rivals, to protect its population and open economy. The vaccine will not only progress in the fight against the virus, but the influence, prestige and money, because the rest of the world wants to buy vaccine.

However, the premature introduction not until the end of the tested vaccine in the medical turnover can have negative consequences. Says Indian epidemiologist Chandrakant Lahariya, politicians must realize that it is not only a quick development of a vaccine. Still need to convince the public of its safety. If you later find that it has negative side effects, then “lost the confidence not only to the vaccine, but all other vaccines developed in the world.”

According to the world health organization (who) currently, the lab in twelve States developed a 27 vaccine candidates currently under testing. Including UK, Japan, Germany, South Korea and the United States. But clinical trials initiated in Russia, China and India — in the three vainglorious emerging economies, ruled by the nationalist leaders, and the Supervisory authority is not too meticulous.

Now Russia, where the coronavirus infected 865 thousand people, is in fourth place in the world among the affected countries. Putin longs for a breakthrough. As reported from the governmental circles of Russia, to date, more than 20 governments in Asia, Latin America and the middle East have declared their interest to the Russian vaccine. In Moscow already dreaming about the repetition of “the moment of Sputnik,” in 1957 when the Soviet Union successfully launched the first artificial Earth satellite into space, ahead of America.

But some epidemiologists, for example, Vasily Vlasov from Moscow Higher school of Economics, warned against premature euphoria. According to him, triumphant from the Kremlin reminiscent of the “propaganda of Soviet times”. Vlasov criticizes the fact that the government lowers legal barriers: Moscow wants in September or October to begin mass production of the vaccine, although clinical trials have not yet reached the decisive third phase. “Thus Russia is violating internationally accepted rules,” — said Vlasov.

According to the who, each new vaccine must be tested in laboratories and on animals before starting tests on humans. In the first phase of clinical trials the vaccine is given only to a few subjects, in the second phase — in dozens and hundreds of subjects, and, finally, the third phase — the tens of thousands. Each phase is mandatory to assess the safety of new products and its efficiency.

In addition, participation in trials should be voluntary. As a rule, subjects compensate for the loss incurred, but a generous remuneration they receive. All important data should be published to agencies and other scientists were in the know.

Apparently, NIS of Gamaliel violated many of these facilities. Still, almost was not published any scientific data. In the first and second phase of testing involved only 76 subjects, half of whom were military personnel. The other half is civilian, each of which received 100 thousand rubles, or the equivalent of about 1 thousand 200 euros. This corresponds to approximately three average monthly earnings. About the “nice bonus” says Anna Kutkina, one of the voluntary subjects. She wants to invest in buying a house in the village, what dreams of long ago.

But struggling not only Russian. In India, too, are eager to speed things up. The pharmaceutical industry of the country is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines. However, most of them developed abroad. Purely Indian development a bit. Prime Minister Narendra modi (Narendra Modi) wants this situation to change. At least seven Indian pharmaceutical firms are now working on a vaccine against covid-19. Further progress the company Bharat Biotech, has created a tool called Covaxin.

In early July, the media got a letter sent by the Director of the state Indian Council of medical research (ICMR). It provides an indication of what Covaxin “must be entered by the examinee no later than 7 July.” And for all the people the vaccine is supposed to be ready no later than August 15. This date was hardly selected at random: 15 August — independence Day of India.

Indian Academy of Sciences called the plan “outrageous.” Manufacturer Bharat Biotech announced after this that the tolerance of the vaccine possible not earlier, than in five months. ICMR backpedaled. From the point of view of an expert of health Lahariya, this case shows that monitoring tools are in India still functioning. “Is it possible such debates in Russia or in China?” — he asks.

But the favorite in the race developers of vaccines is not India, and China. Three of the six available now at the world vaccine candidates, the ongoing third phase of the tests developed in China. Apart from them at this stage vaccines are a British-Swedish group AstraZeneca, company Biontech from Germany and Moderna from the United States.

The Chinese faced the problem that other countries can only dream of: they do not have a sufficient number of infected with the coronavirus. After all, vaccine effectiveness can be reliably checked only where the subjects are at risk of infection. But due to stringent quarantine and regulatory measures, the disease in China at the moment, almost defeated. Therefore, the company Sinopharm conducts tests of the third phase in the United Arab Emirates, and Sinovac in Brazil.

According to Yanjun Huang (Huang Yanzhong), an expert in the field of health, the American research firm Council on Foreign Relations, these two and some other friendly States, such as Pakistan and the Philippines, Beijing has promised to provide the vaccine. According to experts, it is fraught with political risk: since China does not control the media in these countries, there may appear negative reports about side effects: “For China it would be a diplomatic fiasco.”

In addition, around the Chinese military since the end of June introduce an unknown number of soldiers the vaccine, which currently was only the second test phase. The vaccine was developed by army scientists together with the Chinese firm CanSino.

That says one of the participants of the second phase of testing in the firm CanSino, gives grounds to assume that there to the case are worse than in Moscow. During the outbreak of the epidemic in the Wuhan Lao JI (Ji Lao) on the scooter was delivering food and medicines. He was terrified, after reading the Chinese translation of the article from the medical journal Lancet, which described a violation of the immune system upon infection with coronavirus.

During a meeting with the correspondent of “der Spiegel” in April in Wuhan two days after injection, Leo said that he saw an ad for volunteers to test vaccines on the Internet portal Weibo. “I hope that the vaccine will be developed in the near future. Well I can help”.

As he spoke next, the scientists informed him of the risks. A month before the first injection it carefully examined, he spoke about the state of their health and commit to donating blood four times in six months. How big was the payment, he could not remember, “but it was a small amount, about half of my monthly salary”. But it didn’t values.

Even though China has overtaken others in the development of a vaccine, it’s use in this case and methods of intelligence. In July, the U.S. Department of justice filed charges against two Chinese hackers, who allegedly searched for vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech firms and other companies researching vaccines covid-19. It is alleged that one of the officers of the Chinese Ministry of security responsible for their actions.

Firm Moderna, the manufacturer of the vaccines, confirmed that it had informed the FBI about the attempted espionage. With this company from Massachusetts, the government of trump’s hopes. On research associated with its vaccine Covid 19, still it has been allocated nearly one billion dollars from the Federal budget. In late July, the company started tests of the third phase, the first in the United States.

One of the three institutions with which Moderna has partnered — Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. His press service announced that the College is unknown, if and Baylor in the field of view of the Chinese. But there is nothing strange in that there would be: the service of the United States in the course of several investigations do not rule out that China has attempted to medical espionage in the region of Houston. Among other things, this was one of the reasons why the government of trump in late July ordered the closure of the local Consulate of China.