Russia Approves “World First” Covid-19 Vaccine; Testing Ongoing
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that a Covid-19 vaccine has been approved, a major potential first step back towards live events returning. Reaction has been mixed, as the vaccine has not yet gone through a stage of trials that will be required for approval in many countries.
“A vaccine against coronavirus has been registered for the first time in the world this morning,” Putin said on state TV. “It works effectively enough, forms a stable immunity and, I repeat, it has gone through all necessary tests.”
Data on the testing program of the Covid-19 vaccine has not been released by Russian authorities, which has led to charges that corners may have been cut in the rush to bring a vaccine to market.
Per the New York Times:
Vaccines generally go through three stages of human testing before being approved for widespread use. The first two phases test the vaccine on relatively small groups of people to see if it causes harm and if it stimulates the immune system. The last phase, known as Phase 3, compares the vaccine to a placebo in thousands of people.
This final phase is the only way to know with statistical certainty whether a vaccine prevents an infection. And because it’s testing a much larger group of people, a Phase 3 trial can also pick up more subtle side effects of a vaccine that earlier trials could not.
In order to be approved in the United States, a vaccine would need to be shown to be at least 50 percent more effective than placebo, per the FDA. Despite that, Russian officials have indicated that more than 20 countries and companies in the U.S. have expressed interest.
“We’ve seen considerable interest in the Russian vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute abroad. Moreover, we have received preliminary applications for over 1 billion doses of the vaccine from 20 countries,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is financing the research, said Monday. “Along with our foreign partners, we are already prepared to manufacture over 500 million doses of vaccine per year in five countries, and the plan is to ramp up production capacity even higher. So far, countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia have displayed the greatest interest in the vaccine, and we are about to finalize a number of contracts for the purchase of the vaccine.”
Numerous other Covid-19 vaccine candidates are in the pipeline, including a pair that have shown great promise according to teams from the University of Oxford/AstraZenica and Moderna/U.S. Department of Health. Both are currently in Phase 3 testing.
While live events have mostly remained shut down for the time being, there is optimism that the availability of a vaccine would bring the industry back quickly, due to pent up demand from consumers who have been without mass gathering events for going on five months. Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino indicated confidence that they would be running tours “at scale” by summer 2021, but a proven vaccine could move that timeline up even further.