Sechenov University COVID-19 vaccine not ready

On July 13, the news about Russian Sechenov University successfully completing human trials of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine went viral worldwide.

The news gave the impression that Russia has developed an effective vaccine to fight the deadly COVID-19.

Was the story true?

Fact Check
Russian news agency TASS is the primary source of this news that states, the Russian scientists have successfully completed human trials and the vaccine is absolutely safe.

Sputnik News also ran the story.

However, the news platforms did not mention that researchers at Sechenov University have only completed the first phase of a three-phase trial, before a vaccine can be approved for use.

Any vaccine is not considered safe to be used on a massive scale unless it successfully goes through the three phases of human trials.

The vaccine in question is being developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, part of the Russian Health Ministry.

Last month, Russia granted authorisation for clinical trials of two formulations of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

According to Clinicaltrialsarena, an intramuscular solution of the vaccine was tested at the Burdenko Military Hospital while Sechenov University assessed the vaccine in the form of a powder for the preparation of an intramuscular solution.

The first stage of testing at the university commenced on 18 June in a group of 18 participants. The second group of the study involved 20 volunteers who were vaccinated on 23 June.

It was the outcome of this study that was reported by TASS.

According to Sechenov University Center for Clinical Research on Medications head and chief researcher Elena Smolyarchuk, study data showed the vaccine candidate’s effectiveness.

Smolyarchuk was quoted by the news agency as saying: “The research has been completed and it proved that the vaccine is safe. The volunteers will be discharged on 15 July and 20 July.”

But the test is only the first stage of human trials for a vaccine, as per the guideline by the World Health Organisation.

A vaccine is developed by researchers first carrying out preclinical test on animals.

Then comes Phase One, which involves carrying out test on a small number of people.

Phase Two involves test on hundreds of people, while phase three involves test on thousands of people.

It is thus clear that the test carried out by Sechenov University only relates to the first phase of vaccine development.

According to the WHO DRAFT landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines, the vaccine being developed by Gamaleya Research Institute, part of the Health Ministry of the Russian Federation, is still at phase 1.

The United States National Library of Medicine also reported that the vaccine is still at the first phase.

Thus Russia is not ready with a vaccine for COVID-19 yet. It has just begun the process just like more than 150 teams of researchers worldwide, trying to develop a vaccine.

And these researchers include Nigerian scientists at Helix Biogen Consult, Ogbomoso &
Trinity Immonoefficient Laboratory, Ogbomoso, Oyo State.

Also read: Russia completes clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine