As with the US, Russia is not putting all its eggs in one basket when it comes to a potential fix for coronavirus. Anna Popova, the head of the national health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, announced on Monday that volunteers were injected with Vector’s experimental vaccine on August 12. Five days later, on August 17, a second group received the shot.
“Clinical trials are being carried out today, and all the specially selected volunteers are doing well,” Popova said. “Those who received the vaccine have not shown any adverse reactions, and there is not even the slightest reddening at the injection site.”
Vector, where the potential vaccine was created, is a world-class virology and biotechnology facility in Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia. The research facility contains one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of viruses, including Ebola, SARS, and smallpox.
On August 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the country had registered the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, due to be available to the general public from January 2021. Before then, teachers and medical workers will be offered vaccination. The vaccine, named Sputnik V and produced by Moscow’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, has been criticized by some Western countries for what they say was unsafe rapid development and improper testing.
On Wednesday, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announced that that the first batches of the vaccine would be released within just two weeks.
- Note 1:
The State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR, also known as the Vector Institute (Russian: Государственный научный центр вирусологии и биотехнологии „Вектор“), is a biological research center in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.
It has research facilities and capabilities for all levels of Biological Hazard, CDC Levels 1–4.
It is one of two official repositories for the now-eradicated smallpox virus and was part of the system of laboratories known as the Biopreparat.
Recently the facility has been upgraded and secured using modern cameras, motion sensors, fences, and biohazard containment systems. Its relative seclusion makes security an easier task. Since its inception there has been an army regiment guarding the facility.
The facility has, at least in Soviet times, been a nexus for biological warfare research (see ‘Soviet biological weapons program’), though the nature of any ongoing research in this area is uncertain.
- Note 2
The head of the top Russian research center told President Vladimir Putin on April that his lab was ready to start human trials of experimental coronavirus vaccines in June.
Rinat Maksyutov, head of the Vektor State Virology and Biotechnology Center, said “his facility proposed first-phase clinical trials of three vaccines from June 29, on 180 volunteers.”
Maksyutov was speaking during a video-link meeting between Putin and the heads of top research centers.
“Groups of volunteers have already been formed,” he told Putin, adding that a lot of people wanted to take part in the trials.
“We have already received more than 300 applications.”
Maksyutov said scientists at the top-secret lab complex located in Koltsovo outside the Siberian city of Novosibirsk had developed several prototype vaccines.
“Tests were currently underway on mice, rabbits and other animals to determine the most promising by April 30”, he said.
“Vektor planned pre-clinical studies by June 22 before launching the testing in humans”, Maksyutov added.
But the first human trials could begin in May “if the Health Ministry allows it.”
“Vektor has vaccine platform technologies that have already been tested in humans for other infections and could be used for the coronavirus”, he added.
The Vektor laboratory complex conducted secret biological weapons research in the Soviet era and stockpiles viruses ranging from Ebola to smallpox.
Source: The Moscow Times – article from April 7, 2020
Header: A researcher at Kazan Federal University’s Openlab genetic and cell technologies laboratory views biomaterial through a microscope. The lab specializes in research, diagnostics and treatment of different diseases.Yegor Aleyev / TASS