With the Russian vaccine the "Sputnik moment" returns

They came first in the space race and today they are also first in the race against coronavirus. The Russian Sputnik V vaccine, due to the speed with which it was developed and the proven effectiveness that it has certified by experts from around the world, seems to revive the times of the cold war, in the middle of the XNUMXth century, when Washington and Moscow were toiling in make clear their power as capitals of the world. With the drug, which arrived in Venezuela as part of phase three of its clinical trials, our country plays a leading role in one of the most highly anticipated scientific advances in contemporary history.

Not in vain did it receive the name of the first Soviet space program and the first probes that the Eurasian giant sent into the cosmos in the late 1950s. Sputnik, which in Russian means "Satellite", was the nickname chosen to name the drug that So far it is the first vaccine tested and approved to contain the COVID-19 pandemic out of more than 165 vaccine projects globally. By being baptized with a name of such historical weight, the drug honors a past and marks its mark on a present that is very similar to it.

The history of the vaccine is as short and intense as the history of the pandemic. It was developed by the Gamaleya Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, a Russian scientific institution founded in 1891 and which in the XNUMXth century had a leading role in the fight against epidemics of cholera, diphtheria and typhus, supporting massive immunization campaigns in the Union Soviet. In recent years, the center has developed three internationally patented Ebola vaccines and is currently conducting advanced clinical trials on flu and Mers vaccine projects, all using technology based on the same principle used to build Sputnik V: Adenovirals, the keyword behind this whole story.

In Spanish please

On August 11, Sputnik-V was registered by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation after passing in record time the necessary controls that certify its effectiveness and safety. The vaccine, which was administered to test subjects of various ages and backgrounds in Russia, including President Vladimir Putin's own daughter, was tested to leave those who received it with an immune response at least 1,5 times higher than that of those who received it. have suffered and overcome the disease, with minimal short-term side effects, which in the worst case was a fever of 39 degrees sometime after the first 24 hours after application.

On Sputnik-V, the information that can be obtained on the Internet is extensive, but little is really understandable to the general public. A synthesis in simple language must begin by saying that the technological platform on which the drug is based is that of human adenoviral vectors, which has been used since the 1980s in this type of drug with proven efficacy. The Gamaleya Center is an expert in this technology, in fact it is the main building on which they built their three Ebola vaccines and two cancer drugs that have been applied for 17 years.

If we are clear that a vaccine, whatever it may be, bases its operation on the entry into the human body of a form of the virus to combat (be it real or artificial) scientifically manipulated to achieve an immune response in the patient; In this case, what adenoviral vectors do is that they use as “vectors” that is, as a vehicle, as packaging, as transport, the adenovirus, a type of virus that causes the common cold, but manipulated in such a way that it does not it has a gene (say, it has no brain) and is inactive, therefore harmless.

Within this infertile version of the adenovirus, a kind of body in a vegetative state, the vaccine carries, like a trojan horse, a bit of SARS-COV-2, that is, of the Covid-19 virus, specifically of Protein S that resides on the thorns or "paws" that make up its crown (by now I think we all know what the coronavirus virus looks like). This protein is inserted into the place of the brain of the previously extracted adenovirus, which results in a microscopic frankestein whose only mission is to enter the human body to allow itself to be annihilated like a kamikaze by the soldiers of our immune system.

That is the rough formula. When this compound enters the cell of the patient's body, the injected coronavirus portion generates antibodies, but not the disease or its consequences. That is, as with all vaccines, the body believes that it has already experienced the condition and responds accordingly by sowing permanent protection in advance against a future attack from an enemy it already knows. It is just like a war. The winner already knows the loser, so they don't leave again.

The Russian vaccine is given in two doses, each 21 days apart. This lies in one of the peculiarities that differentiate Sputnik-V from all other vaccines in process, and it is the use of two different types of adenovirals, rAd26 and rAd5, to enhance the final result.

If the reader is interested in knowing more details about Sputnik-V, of course, packed in the scientific language of rigor, the vaccine website has information for a feast, and in Spanish: https://sputnikvaccine.com/esp/

The benefits of the vaccine are not only raised in their country of origin but also by spokespersons of great scientific prestige worldwide such as the British medical journal The Lancet, representatives of the John Hopkins hospital in the USA, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine , from the Hadassah Clinic in Israel, from the British Red Cross, from the University of Strasbourg, in France, among other testimonies easily located on the web. In fact, the commotion over the birth of this vaccine and its promising results was such that it caused the shares of laboratories like Pfizer to fall on the stock market, by 0,8%; those of Novavax, at 7,7%; and Moderna by 2,5%, all of these centers also working on vaccine projects

Arrive to Venezuela

Less than a month after its official registration, a batch of Sputnik-V arrived in Venezuela for 2000 volunteers from our country to undergo phase 3 testing. The media war against the vaccine has been with blood and fire, but as an act of faith and as an irrefutable sign of confidence towards the scientific wisdom of the country that put the first man (and also the first woman) in space, President Nicolás Maduro reported that his son and one of his sisters are the first to sign up for volunteering.

A batch of vaccines from Russia arrives in the country

It is no small thing. It is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to test the first vaccine approved to alleviate the pandemic that in less than a year has claimed more than a million lives worldwide.

Then, what was announced by the Minister of Popular Power for Health, Carlos Alvarado, is that the tests of this phase 3 in Venezuelan territory will last 180 days. People who wish to participate in the study must meet the unique requirement of being over 18 years of age and not suffering from chronic diseases. Volunteer registration will be done through a website and from there the team in charge of the experiment will select 2 “test subjects”, as patients are called in these cases.

As is customary in drug testing, a part of the sample will actually receive the dose of the vaccine and another part will receive a placebo so that they serve as a “control”, that is, to make a comparison of the evolution.

Alvarado explained that the agreement with Russia regarding Sputnik-V is planned to occur in three phases. The first is the one that is already underway, participating in phase 3 of the tests, the second acquiring the vaccine, and the third the technology transfer and the production of the vaccine in Venezuela.

This exercise of scientific exchange that Russia and Venezuela carry out with Sputnik-V has been criticized, but little is said, for example, of the four vaccines that are being tested in Brazil, in much lower stages of experimentation. The University of Oxford, the Chinese company Sinovac, as well as the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have used the Rio de Janeiro country as a testing ground for months, with agreements similar to those of Caracas and Moscow.

It is true that the history of drug testing is long and cruel. Poor countries have historically been used as living laboratories for experimentation by large corporations. It is enough to review the devastating effects on women in Central America and Asia in whom the first contraceptives were tried without consultation, for example.

As for Venezuela, our history is not long when it comes to testing drugs for immunization. In 1804 the first experience was lived with the arrival in Puerto Cabello of the vaccine against smallpox inside the body of six Spanish orphans in what the medical literature calls the “Royal Philanthropic Expedition of the Vaccine”. Closer, in a one hundred percent sovereign experiment, Jacinto Convit gave everything to get his vaccine against leprosy and leishmaniasis.

The Sputnik-V tests are presented as an unprecedented experience in the country that opens a whole field of scientific exploration for Venezuelan research groups, especially due to the high-caliber exchange that they imply, within a strict ethical framework as a capital premise .

The information war on the Russian vaccine has reached the point of affirming that its launch favors the anti-vaccine movement, predicting imminent catastrophes and showing crude congratulations, but so far scientific evidence has left these vociferations without basis, which every day are more reminiscent of the war cold and the space race. They have wanted to demean Russian science and the speed of work on the vaccine has been questioned, despite the fact that the desire was the same as that of Western laboratories. What happens very well has been characterized by Russian spokespersons: with the vaccine, as happened with the space race, the world is experiencing a new "Sputnik moment", only this time the trip does not go beyond the limits of the cosmos but will the most minute but vital of our humanity.

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