Why Sputnik V Vaccine by Russia is Controversial?

The Sputnik V by Russia has sparked the world with controversies ever since it was first announced as an effective vaccine. Many health experts have raised ethical questions regarding the vaccine safety, effectiveness and its most controversial clinical trials which made this vaccine to get approval by the national regulatory body in August 2020. The Russian government is not accepting this criticism, calling these questions unnecessary and illogical but it appears that they have brought these questions on this vaccine by themselves.

The controversy is not related to the vaccine efficiency, in fact, Sputnik V by Russia has turned out to be a highly proficient vaccine. It is based on recombinant technology using adenovirus as a vector which provides protection from coronavirus.

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It has a clever design which uses two different vectors in both doses, leading to a long term and strong immune response. As compared to other Covid-19 vaccines, it is much cheaper and the vaccine itself doesn’t require extreme storage or transportation conditions. Because of this, its demand is equally high, like Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna or AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. Many countries have signed advanced purchase agreements with American and British companies but the countries which have left behind to receive these vaccines are now in talks with Russia to get their hands on Covid-19 vaccines.

Irrespective of the high-efficiency of this vaccine, Russia has invited controversies on it which has affected its scientific credibility and value. The exaggerated claims which Putin made, regarding the efficiency of this vaccine, are the biggest reason why all global health experts are questioning it.

Interestingly, this controversy on Sputnik V vaccine is not the first time when Russia is experiencing criticism. Some time ago, Russia made headlines saying that it has successfully made an HIV/AIDS vaccine or it is testing an Ebola vaccine, both of which never came forward.

In summer 2020, after a couple of days when Pfizer and Moderna published their vaccine trial results, Russia added up with Sputnik V results which at first appeared to be as vague as its previous vaccine claims. Some health experts believe that Russia has dragged its vaccine development technology to such a level that no one actually believes what it brings in front of the world now. Additionally, the overclaims and disinformation has been around this whole time of Covid-19 pandemic.  Starting from misinformation on the virus, a number of cases, hospitalizations and even death numbers.

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Russia was also a part of countries which underestimated or wrongly reported their own cases but overstated the efficiency of its vaccine. Mainly because of this reason, people from all parts of the world speculated that probably it has manipulated the data again and misreporting the trials, or worse, that it never actually conducted the trials.

In August, Russia began registrations for Sputnik V through a website which was available in nine different languages. This whole process skipped many basic details such as prerequisites for any vaccine’s emergency authorization.

In the last two months of 2020, when most vaccines were in their final trials, Sputnik V apparently published more efficacy than that Pfizer, calling it 90%. Within a couple of days, it was reported 92% instead of 90%, as previously announced and after Moderna’s 94.5% efficient vaccine this claim went one more further higher.  This continuous change of efficiency has made people wonder if the authorities are misrepresenting the whole vaccine development or the vaccine is actually very competent.

Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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