Sputnik-V: Rescue or Russian roulette?


COVID-19 is now almost all over the world, with the level of more than 26 million cases breached within this week and around 0.86 million deaths recorded. Whether a patient, survives, defeats or gets treated; the repercussions are here to stay for may be years to come. Industries showed signs of collapsing, unemployment ensued and pay-cuts were the order of the day.
Even in this gloomy situation all around, there were a few industries that thrived. Pharmaceutical was one of those which minted money throughout the pandemic and are likely to continue doing so in the near future. The fear of death, instilled by the grieving headlines and increasing numbers of infected and casualties by minutes and hours were enough to cause concern for self and loved ones. The unprecedented hoarding of eatables, edibles, daily use items and sanitary products along with medicines in unbelievable number; where people tried to accumulate stuff which would be enough for years even, was enough to cause an alarming situation on hands. The prices shot up, there were shortages and the collective panic at all economic strata resulted in uncontrolled vicious cycle involving everyone.
It meant that from antibiotics for chest and respiratory infections to cough syrups, from face masks to hand sanitizers and Oximeters, from cough lozenges to Vitamin-C and Vitamin-D dosages, from Oxygen cylinders tanks to thermal scanners, from paracetamol, Chloroquine, Dexamethasone and pain-killers to absolutely any other medicine in routine use for any chronic ailment or metabolic disorder, to those which were either empirically proved or not for the symptomatic relief of COVID-19 issues; not only disappeared from the shelves but also their prices appreciated in the black market, inducing more hoarding and creating a window of opportunity for those opportunist who wanted to earn substantial amount through selling the hoarded items at inflated rates.
Many pharmaceutical companies also went in for the hay while sun continued to shine. The pre-emptive measures meant that many pharmaceuticals replaced previous tag-lines for their brands and started using COVID-19 symptomatic relief indications for their products while on the other hand collaborating with multinationals and research companies to get partnership and registration for their products which may potentially be found beneficial for COVID-19 patients, to be marketed within their target market.Ground work was hurriedly commenced to launch such products by companies that were earlier missing in their product portfolio. Shortage of hand sanitizers, willingness of consumers to buy it any cost and the authorities leniency in allowing the pharmaceutical companies to come up with their brand, prompted many local pharmaceutical companies to launch their brands of hand sanitizers in different SKUs. Such was the magnitude of availability that even Ministers had to claim self-sufficiency in hand sanitizer and rising probability to even export to other countries!
While most of the World was shifting to another level of greed and selfishness; another race was going on within countries and research organizations. The vaccine for COVID-19, which almost all the 7.5 to 8 billion people inhabiting Earth would want to inoculate themselves with, would be an ultimate trophy. The vaccine is recipe to a definite Nobel for Medicine this year and maybe even the power to bring other countries on their knees!
China, Germany, USA, UK, Russia, Canada, Israel, India, Taiwan and many other countries jumped on to the opportunity and started preparing and conducting clinical trials for many potential vaccines. The number of potential vaccines broke the 165 mark. More than 10 vaccines were already in Phase-2 and 8 vaccines were in Phase-3 of their clinical trials. Two vaccines were approved for early or limited use only. While potential vaccines were in different phases of their preparation, many allies’ countries would continue to book millions of doses for their people and ensure first piece of the cake. Whether you call it national greed, selfishness, care for one’s nation, absolute power of wealth or being indifferent to other nations; the race was, and still is, fully on. The greedy eagerness and uncontrolled aggression among the countries to supersede each other and claim victory in coming up with their own versions of vaccine whether half-baked or fulfilling all phases of the clinical trials remains questionable and even, unethical for many concerned scientists and physicians who are directly or indirectly central to how this pandemic continues to unfold.
Among all this scenario where people, pharmaceuticals, governments and blocks are fiercely competitive of each other and want to take command in this race; Russia last month, approved and announced that they are ready with their first vaccine for COVID-19. The formula was developed by Gamaleya Institute in Moscow and the Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the news on Tuesday, 11th of August while also claiming that his daughter has already received her dose. He declared the vaccine to be ‘quite effective’ while offering ‘sustainable immunity’ and passing’all needed checks’. Many organizations, research companies and countries were circumspect and register their concern and grievance with calculated words to highlight that Russians skipped including all results of widespread Phase-3 before approving the vaccine. Many documented their concern at the potential efficacy and safety of vaccine without including the completed result of Phase-3 which includes general population. The authenticity of the vaccine, which was bestowed with regulatory approvalin less than 2 months of human trials, is also debatable. The need to get rid of COVID-19 from the World and economy is such that almost everyone is willing to accept whatever comes their way. Soon World Health Organization announced that they will beentering discussions with the Russian health authorities for a possible prequalification of this new vaccine. The vaccine was, originally, not in the list of those 6 vaccines which were short-listed by W.H.O. to be in the third phase of their clinical trials for the COVID-19. However, the equitable distribution of the vaccine, especially in those countries with more viral load or those with fewer resources to purchase, remains questionable.
Spicing up the race even more, the Russians while showcasing their pride on the new development, named the vaccine Sputnik-V to inflict even more pain to the Americans, which is statistically the worst hit country with respect to the number of patients and casualties due to COVID-19, reminding them how they were also beaten back in 1950s during the Cold War when the then U.S.S.R. became the first country to launch the artificial orbital satellite into the space, the Sputnik-I. How this race to cure unfolds from here and how other nations fare from this development is yet to be seen.

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