Russia’s Covid-19 Vaccine Unveils Uncomfortable US & EU Government And Big Pharma Truths

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A Russian vaccine now versus another 8 months of waiting. Take your choice. 

Op/Ed By Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

Russia has registered (Tuesday August 11) the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, with President Vladimir Putin announcing the rapidly developed vaccine’s approval. The vaccine, named “Sputnik V” has passed phase one and two trials. President Putin also stated that one of his own daughters had been inoculated. However, global institutions have expressed alarm at the pace of development and expressed concerns it has not been trialed properly, with the normal phase three trials essentially being the first wave of innoculations.

Mikhail Murushki, the Russian Health Minister said that clinical trials of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Healthcare Ministry were over. Nikolay Briko, Russian Health Ministry’s chief non-resident epidemiologist stated “This vaccine wasn’t developed from scratch, the Gamaleya Research Center had a serious, significant research base on vaccines. The technology of developing such a vaccine was perfected. The process was sped up due to the fact that the vaccine was not created from scratch. It is important that all stages of vaccine research are followed and that international requirements are adhered to.”

There had been outcry when the Head of the Gamalaya Research Center tested the vaccine on himself, in April, in apparent breach of normal medical protocols. However there is history here – the Gamaleya Institute is named after Nikolai Gamaleya, a protege of Louis Pasteur, who used to test vaccines on himself in the late 1890’s. Numerous trials have also been tested on volunteers, with effects apparently ranging from none to mild aches and pains. No-one has been reported as falling ill.

The Gamaleya Research Center is a globally respected institute that works with academic and healthcare organisations around the world. It established the Odessa Bacteriological Institute, which became Russia’s first-ever bacteriological observation station. It is now based in Moscow and has numerous branch institutions across Russia, with at least seven clinical investigations sites across the country involved in Covid-19 research. Two preparations are under investigation, being an injectable liquid and a powder. Russia’s Minister of Health, Mikhail Murashko, said on August 2 that the vaccine was to be used first on school teachers and health care workers and made available, on a voluntary, free of charge basis to the general population from January 1st 2021. The GRI vaccine requires two shots to be effective.

Uncomfortable Truths From The US & EU

So why the brickbats instead of praise? It should be noted that most Western mainstream media is inherently biased against Russia, a situation partially caused by a lack of transparency itself within the country, although this also stems from a different set of regulatory and compliance standards than those insisted upon by the United States and European Union. However it ought to be noted that the United States itself has pulled out of the Gavi Alliance – an international grouping of 31 countries, to develop and coordinate a joint cure for the Covid-19 disease.

This means that the United States has made a decision not to share intellect or research, and to go it alone, intending to produce vaccines for ‘America First’. This in turn means a global cure increasingly relies on Russian and other well established research institutes to come up with answers and solutions.

Developing a proven Covid-19 vaccine is of course a matter both of international prestige and in some countries, a source of huge potential profits. The debate over whether Russia has a safe vaccine or not is partially caught up in this. Russians will not be charged for the vaccine, while the country has signed agreements with 20 countries including Brazil, and India to supply 500 million doses among requests for double that amount. US and EU pharma are set to lose a big payday in export markets.

The United States in contrast is not expected, despite its so-called “Warp Speed” development program, to have a vaccine ready until mid 2021.

In addition, the US Is also one of the only countries unable to provide a vaccine without passing on development costs and significant profit margins to its own citizens, a sign of a failing within the American capitalist structure and of the American Government Health-Care system.

Under these circumstances, and the vested interests also held by Big Pharma in the EU – whose companies are receiving billions of dollars in funding – suggest there is systematic criticism of Russia, inconveniently popping up both early and with a cheaper vaccine, that impinges upon viewing Covid-19 as a profitable business. This article by DW explains the positions very well, and are more than enough to skew Western media perception against a successful Russian vaccine. Critics suggest that any first vaccine may be mediocre and could undermine other efforts.

Russia Wants To Hit Covid-19 Now Rather Than Wait Months For Western Clinical Trials.

Yet the difference in timeframe between Russia launching its vaccine and the mid-2021 date for any US rival is about eight months – during which period in 2020 some 20 million cases have spread around the world with 750,000 deaths. It is hard to imagine a Russian vaccine imposing anywhere near that sort of damage. The West meanwhile appears caught in medical protocols that delay bringing solutions to market via mass trials taking months. While this would normally be sensible and safe, it is not fit for purpose when dealing with a pandemic that is infecting over an additional 260,000 people worldwide a day.

Whether the Russians are right to release a vaccine at this time and whether or not it is workable or even safe is a matter that will be revealed in time. It is possible some Russians take the attitude of being seen as local heroes at the expense of science. On the other hand, the apparently selfish nature and ultra-capitalist approach of the United States as concerns their domestic and global healthcare also leaves rather a lot to be desired.

The cold war attitude, and its systematic interference in global healthcare at a time when coordination is required is representive of a political worldwide shame.
Covid-19 isn’t concerned about politics. It just maims and kills and has no political alliance. For that alone, hoping the Russians have got it right should be enough to keep those fingers crossed.

Attitudes from the West towards Russia are long in need of a reset, and working together with them rather than constantly criticizing may well bring a global Covid-19 vaccine closer to the year end rather than into mid 2021. If the Russians truly do have something that works, it really ought not be beyond diplomatic protocols to engage with Moscow to find out how a vaccine can be bought faster to other global markets where it is critically needed.

The curious thing is that US stocks rose overnight on August 11 after the announcement, partially due to the Russian vaccine story – a rare case of Wall Street appearing to endorse Russian news as positive in the face of general Western media negativity. This suggests financial analysts believe the impact of the Sputnik 5 vaccine to be more significant than is generally being discussed or recognised. A question to ask is why Western pharma and media appear content to wait out for a longer period while potentially adding months before anything is considered safe as to US and EU standards? Balanced against that is the factual situation that Covid-19 continues to spread, and continues to kill. On balance, the Russian vaccine rollout, early or not appears by far the lesser of the two problems.

This article was updated at 16:30 Beijing time on August 12 to include latest developments.

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Russia Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Eurasia, including China, Russia, India, and the ASEAN nations, assisting foreign investors into the Eurasian region. Please contact Maria Kotova at russia@dezshira.com for Russian investment advisory or assistance with market intelligence, legal, tax and compliance issues throughout Asia.

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