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A new paper published in the respected scientific journal suggested preliminary results from Russian trials involving 76 participants found two formulations of a two-part vaccine known as Sputnik-V “have a good safety profile with no serious adverse events detected over 42 days”. The report also suggests the treatment induced “antibody responses in all participants within 21 days”.
However, Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham and a former member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, pointed to a note at the bottom of the report stating: “This study was funded by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.
“It was conducted by researchers from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.”
Mr Kawczynski said: “The problem that we have is bearing in mind that the Russians refuse to comply with all of the normal international norms and standards when it comes to dissemination of protocols and standards which all nations should comply with, when they are potentially developing something exciting, it is very difficult for British institutions to become involved or to have confidence in it.
It is unfortunate that the Russian government at the moment refuses to comply with the most basic international standards of behaviour
Daniel Kawczynski MP
“So there is this scepticism or this hesitation on behalf of British entities to engage or collaborate, evaluate and understand what Russian scientists are doing.
“And it is unfortunate that the Russian government at the moment refuses to comply with the most basic international standards of behaviour.
“There are so many highly educated and innovative Russian institutions for research that would love engage with Britain in a constructive manner.
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“Russia has some of the world’s greatest scientists, medical researchers and experts – but unfortunately, given the political intransigence of the Kremlin to adhere to basic international principles, it is very difficult.
“The latest thing we have seen is this allegation that this opposition MP has been poisoned by Novichok.
“When we see headlines like that, it is another blow for any British entity which is seeking to engage with their Russian counterpart.
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“It is very welcome that several countries are in the process of developing a coronavirus vaccine.
“There is no doubt that it is indeed urgently needed, however, we must ensure that all vaccinations are properly tested, and the results are made available for peer review.”
Mr Kawczysnski also sounded a further note of caution, saying: “I understand that Phase 3 trials on the vaccine developed in the Russian Federation have just begun and experts largely agree that until their conclusion, the vaccination should not be used for mass immunisation.
“We must ensure that any vaccination used in the United Kingdom is researched extensively through independent trials and approved of by the UK’s scientific community.”
Speaking last month, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Sputnik-V had been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans – and before Phase 3 trials, as pointed out by Mr Kawczynski.
Mr Putin insisted the vaccine had passed all required checks, and that his daughter had already been given it.
Officials have said they plan to start a programme of mass vaccination next month.
Scientists not involved with the study said while the results are a positive sign, only Phase 3 trials will confirm whether the vaccine prevents illness with COVID-19.
Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The data on the Russian vaccine studies reported in The Lancet are encouraging.”
Naor Bar-Zeev, deputy director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, who peer-reviewed the study, likewise said the findings were encouraging but highlighted the small size of the sample.
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