ALWAYS having been Vlad, bad and dangerous to know, President Putin of Russia appears ready to prove the last bit and risk the life of his own daughter so that he can claim that his country is the first in the world to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.

Announcing the world’s first vaccine in Moscow yesterday, the Russian leader said that one of his two daughters “has taken part in the experiment” and has received two shots of the vaccine. Putin did not say which of his two daughters, Mariya or Katerina, had received the vaccine but that his daughter had a temperature of 38C on the day of the first vaccine, but it dropped to just above 37C the next day.

He said she had a slight increase in temperature following the second dose of the vaccine, but is now “feeling well and has a high number of antibodies”.

Putin added: “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.”

The plan is to vaccinate key workers from next month and the general public from January 1.


IN what is more than a nod to the USSR’s successful launching of the first man-made object into space, the satellite Sputnik, the vaccine is being called Sputnik V. The name was revealed by Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which has invested heavily in the development of the vaccine by the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow.

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Sputnik V is reportedly based on an already existing vaccine platform that was approved for fighting Ebola virus in 2015 and on another vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) – another form of coronavirus.


THE trouble with Putin’s announcement is that he admitted that the vaccination of people would go ahead without the phase three trials which are seen as the gold standard of vaccine testing. Phase three trials usually detect rare side effects and measure the effectiveness of a vaccine in a large sample of a population.

Professor Alexander Gintsburg, the head of the Gamaleya Institute, said yesterday that vaccination would start while the phase three trials continued. Many scientists believe that is very risky, and Gintsburg caused considerable controversy back in May when he said he and other researchers had tried the vaccine on themselves.

The Interfax news agency reported that initially there would only be enough doses to conduct vaccinations in 10 to 15 of Russia’s 85 regions, which in effect means the people there are taking part in an experiment. President Putin insists, however, that taking the vaccine will be voluntary.


FIRST of all, would you like to tell him it’s a dud or that it damages people? He’s already made his judgement:

“I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity. And I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks.” Except for those pesky phase three trials, that is…

Scientific analysis will eventually show if Sputnik V is the miracle drug we have all been waiting for, or whether its development has not come up to scratch. Hopefully there will be no serious side effects. If there are, it is unlikely that the Russian people will stay entirely silent and word will get out.

Russia’s health system is chronically underfunded and some people just do not trust Putin. One Moscow teacher who asked not to be named told The Guardian: “I don’t trust the government. There’s no way I’m taking the vaccine.”


LET’S put this in context – as of yesterday Russia had recorded 897,599 coronavirus cases, the fourth-highest number in the world, and yet had registered only 15,131 deaths – a mortality rate of 1.7%. Many Western experts think both figures are deliberately being kept down as Putin keeps trying to give the impression he’s on top of the pandemic.

Announcing the mass vaccination programme, Putin is at least deflecting criticism that the vaccine had already been made available to the Moscow elite. That his daughter was one of the first recipients tends to prove that assertion, so perhaps the president jumped the gun with his statement.

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Yet if he is right and this is the vaccine we all want, Russia will be forgiven for all that drug cheating at sport, Putin will be a hero to many and Russian pharmaceutical companies will become very, very rich. Some reports say 20 countries have already pre-ordered a billion doses of the vaccine.


THE vaccinations are going ahead against the advice of the Moscow-based Association of Clinical Trials Organisation. They wanted full phase three testing done first.

Dr Peter Kremsner, from the University Hospital in Tuebingen, Germany, is currently testing CureVac’s Covid-19 vaccine in clinical trials. He said: “Normally you need a large number of people to be tested before you approve a vaccine.”

Dr Ohid Yaqub, senior lecturer in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, said: “In terms of safety, skipping phase three means trust in this vaccine – and vaccines generally – could be undermined, and it could also give people a false sense of security, if it turns out the vaccine is not actually effective.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, who is leading the American scientific response to the pandemic, questioned Sputnik V’s safety even before it was revealed. Failure will also give the anti-vaxxers all the ammunition they need.