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Russia, the first country to approve COVID-19 vaccine? Plus SA trials underway

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The final leg of the race is in sight, seeing every country gunning to finalise and trademark the first vaccine. Baring in mind, whichever country completes this highly anticipated race first, will without question not only generate vast sums of wealth but will forever be synonymised in history. 

Nearing the inevitable finish line, on Tuesday, August 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia has become the first country to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. The development of the vaccine, which has been dubbed Sputnik V after the Soviet satellite, paves the way for the mass inoculation of the Russian population. This is while the final stage of the clinical trials to test the safety and efficiency of the vaccine continues.

Speaking at a government meeting on state television, Putin explained the vaccine, which is developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, is safe. Such is his trust in the vaccine, it has even been administered to one of his daughters.

While there are concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine, Putin assures it works effectively, forms strong immunity and has passed all the required checks. This is after, the World Health Organization urged Russia to follow established guidelines and go “through all the stages” necessary to develop a safe vaccine.

Putin claims that he hopes Russia will soon start mass production of the vaccine.

Russia claims 20 nations have pre-ordered one billion doses of Sputnik V. With the assistance of foreign partners, the country will be able to produce 500 million doses a year in five countries.

While Russia aims to showcase its scientific prowess in obtaining a vaccine, more than 100 possible vaccines are being developed around the world. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data.

With Russia leading the way, South Africa is stepping up in securing its place in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine

South Africa has been collaborating with Oxford University in a randomised control study, which is running in both Britain and Brazil. The country has five sites screening and enrolling participants in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 randomised control trial. (A bit more difficult to pronounce than Sputnik V)

Such is the faith in the potential vaccine, Professor Glenda Gray, the president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, was screened and vaccinated on 11 August 2020, at the UCT Lung Institute site. Making up one of more than 1,000 participants who enrolled.

With over 20 million cases and over 740 000 deaths globally and counting, the need for a vaccine is climbing daily. 

It should be only but a short while before we are able to line up for the life-saving vaccine. 

What are your thoughts on the matter? Will you be a part of the first people to receive a vaccine? Or will you choose to wait it out and see how the first people respond to it? 

Author: Quinton Boucher

Edited: Calvin Swemmer

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