Russia's coronavirus vaccine: approved too soon?

Russia has become the first country to approve a vaccine against the coronavirus for general use. Sputnik V is effective and offers sustainable immunity, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday. However, scientific data on the vaccine has yet to be released. Journalists warn against premature rejoicing, pointing to health and other risks.

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Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

More a danger than a salvation

The vaccine carries risks at various levels, Jornal de Notícias points out:

“It is not without reason that several experts have warned against the idea that the vaccine is our salvation. After all, the results of this first version could be mediocre, as was the case with HIV. Moreover, Putin's magic wand has other deformities: the vaccine could create a false sense of security and induce potential patients to lower their guard. And if it turns out to be ineffective, this will only boost the number of science deniers. The Russian miracle could turn out to be a colossal disaster.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Don't give ammunition to anti-vaxxers

If the vaccine is approved without proper testing it could add grist to the mill of the anti-vaccination movement, The Irish Times warns:

“Established vaccines are remarkably safe, and claims that link them to syndromes like autism are demonstrably bogus. However, disturbing numbers of people believe in vaccine hoaxes, and the trials need to deliver answers on safety convincing to the population at large. ... Mass vaccination based on trials of a few thousand patients - as suggested in Russia - would be reckless.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Russian researchers used to adverse conditions

The announcement of the vaccine should certainly be taken seriously, says Spotmedia:

“Russia has good researchers who are used to working under tough conditions. One only need recall the Soviet scientists who made a decisive contribution to the development of the polio vaccine. In 1959, Dr. Michael Chumakov and his wife Marina vaccinated their own two children with the solution they had developed. They were the first to find an oral polio vaccine for children. The solution was dropped on a sugar cube and then swallowed. The two virologists were instrumental not only in developing this vaccine, but also in the development of the influenza vaccine. ... So it's quite possible that Russian virologists are using the same unconventional methods in the development of a serum against Covid-19.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

A danger to the Russians and the world

Putin's move is extremely risky, Le Figaro criticises:

“By having the vaccine approved in his country before the test phases essential for its validation have been completed, Putin is exposing his population to a product that could prove ineffective or even dangerous. And he's running the risk of giving the world false hope. Without any reliable scientific data, his evidence is limited to the fact that his daughter was inoculated with the product and she is doing fine. … Out of caution, Putin should remember that while Sputnik gave Moscow its first victory in the conquest of space, the Soviets lost the race and never managed to set foot on the moon.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A race like in the Cold War

Nomen est omen, columnist Paolo Garimberti comments in La Repubblica:

“One feels transported back sixty years to the times of the Soviet Union. The red thread is the name: Sputnik. Back then, on 4 October 1957, it was about the conquest of space. Yesterday, on 11 August 2020, it was about the discovery of a vaccine for Covid-19. But the ultimate goal is the same: to defeat the West, Europe and the United States (and China in the case of the vaccine), to reaffirm the superiority of Putin's Russia, the reincarnation of the USSR. ... The vaccine against coronavirus sets the stage for the second cold war, in which, it seemed, Trump and Xi were playing the leading roles. But one should never underestimate Putin, the old fox, forged in the KGB and hardened in the murky Yeltsin years.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

A blow to Western arrogance

For Ria Novosti, the premature criticism of Sputnik-V is part of a campaign fueled by envy, geopolitics and prejudice:

“Russia took up this challenge a little later than China, the US and Britain. Now its sudden advance to the pole position is a source of excruciating pain for our Western partners. ... Firstly because it runs counter to progressive ideas: authoritarian, stupid Russia can't possibly overtake the West on highly complex scientific and technological terrain. ... Secondly it's a threat to the West's geopolitical influence. Because if Russia works actively with other countries on vaccination, it can further increase its influence there, and that must not be allowed to happen. And thirdly, because of the money involved.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Leave geopolitics out of this

Where the vaccine was developed should not be an issue now, De Tijd admonishes:

“Putin could really use a success on the coronavirus front because Russia's response to the pandemic was initially hesitant and unclear. A vaccine could boost the president's popularity with his own people again. But this also applies to other world leaders such as Trump or Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, the fight against the pandemic must not be dictated by geopolitical games or greed. This is about containing a global health risk. If a vaccine works, its origin is not important. All that matters is its availability and effectiveness.”