Amid the pandemic humanity has faced a number of complicated challenges – the invention of the vaccine is the first global task to do. Coronavirus has set a precedent: until the beginning of 2020 the disease was never known before, because of the quick spread, high contagious rate, and bad deaths statistics the vaccine is critically required. If biologists commonly spend years for the developments, in the wake of current conditions the time is limited to several months.
According to the most hopeful prognoses, the vaccine can be presented in summer-autumn, however, its manufacturing will be set up in late 2020 or even at the beginning of the next year. While US and European developers refrain from making premature statements, Kremlin hastened to assert that Russia will finish clinical trials before the end of summer – consequently, the vaccination will be started next season. On May 22, the country announced that the researchers at the Gamaleya National Research Institute in Russia vaccinated themselves against coronavirus, allegedly to protect themselves from being infected. Among all officially registered vaccine developments in the world, only 10 have managed to pass the preclinical phase – and neither of them is developed by Russia.
Compared to other countries, Russia has shown the worst coronavirus response. While China, the United States, Europe, and Middle East countries imposed quarantine restrictions in February and in early March, the Russian government announced the so-called “non-working week” on March 25 and was the last one to realize the sense (except Belarus). The number of infected citizens grew rapidly, with a daily increase of about 10,000 people, including medics, who complained about the lack of personal protective equipment, non-payment of salaries, and the facts of being blackmailed by employers.
Despite all these discrediting examples, Russian medics, scientists and even generals (!) keep convincing society of Russian ability to invent not only the vaccine, but the treatment within only a few months. In April, American biopharmaceutical company Gilead announced that experimental drug remdesivir was successfully passing clinical trials and had already proved its effectiveness in the treatment of severe symptoms of coronavirus. In May, the US authorities officially allowed remdesivir to be used in case of emergency. It should be considered that the drug was invented five years ago, long before COVID-19 outbreak, to cure Ebola, and is not a newcomer to medicine: the developers spent years on the researches to consider all possible side effects of the drug and its general effectiveness.
If you are not able to invent the medicine on your own, you can appropriate a development made by someone else. On June 11, Russia stated that it has approved the production of its own anti-coronavirus drug Avifavir – the hospitals in several regions of the country have been already provided with the medicine. Russian mass media emphasized that the product causes rapid positive result in 4 days since the beginning of the treatment. Meanwhile, the drug is produced on the basis of Japanese development Favipiravir, also known as Avigan. Japan registered Favipiravir back in 2014 as a treatment of influenza and other viruses, allowed only when nothing else helps. The drug was available only at the request of Japan government in order to handle the flu outbreaks; however, not for sale. Medical trials on Favipiravir are still held in Japan, also in China, India, Germany and many other countries; if the benefits outweigh the risks, the medicine will be approved in late June.
Japanese and German developers are not too optimistic about the effectiveness of the drug and – no less important – about its safety. In their turn, Russian officials are delighted with “Russian” invention and are in advance to convince the citizens that Avifavir is no worse than American remdesivir. They avoid to talk about the safety but cautiously mention: after taking Avifavir it is not recommended to plan children for women and men for a three-month period. Japan developers were more honest when said that Favipiravir can cause the deformity of the fetus.
In the “race” for the invention of the medicine Russia purports to be the leading developer, the first state that officially approved a treatment of coronavirus, thus, violating ethical, legislative and international norms. Avifavir has not yet passed the clinical studies, but it seems that Russia strives to win the race by all means, and the consequences for the citizens is the last thing it cares about.