Russia Convinced It Has 'Best Vaccine in the World' After Promising Study Results

A COVID-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia successfully generated an antibody response and showed no serious adverse effects, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet on Friday.

The peer-reviewed data could put Russia at the top of its race with the U.S., Europe, and China for developing a successful vaccine against the virus. Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, told Bloomberg on Friday that the country believes that their development is the "best in the world."

"Russia has answered the questions that have been asked about it," he said. "And we are convinced that we have the best vaccine in the world."

The study was conducted through "two open, non-randomised phase 1/2 studies at two hospitals in Russia" and involved 76 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-60. Volunteers were required to self-isolate after registering for the trial and stayed at the hospital 28 days after being vaccinated. The vaccine uses two different human adenoviruses that were altered to carry genes for the spike protein in the coronavirus in order to generate an immune response.

According to preliminary results in phase 1 and 2 trials, the vaccine also triggered T-cell responses within 28 days. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that helps the immune system tackle infection.

Investigators compared post-vaccination immunity to the immune response that people had after naturally recovering from COVID-19, finding that antibody response was higher in the individuals who were vaccinated, the study showed.

The Lancet also reported that there were no adverse reactions to the vaccine, with the most common side effects being pain at the injection site, fever, headache and muscle or joint pain.

Russia drew a great deal of skepticism when it announced that it developed the world's first approved COVID-19 vaccine in August, which President Vladimir Putin cleared before the vaccine completed phase 3 of trials. Several high-profile officials, such as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, said that they have taken the vaccine.

Vladimir Putin Meets About Covid-19 Spread
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the situation with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including the development of vaccines, via a teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on April 7, 2020. ALEXEY DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

The study did address several limitations in the trials, including the lack of a placebo group; a short duration of follow-up (42 days); a low number of participants; and fairly young volunteers. It is not yet clear how the vaccine will affect older populations and high-risk groups.

"Further research is needed to evaluate the vaccine in different populations, including older age groups, individuals with underlying medical conditions, and people in at-risk groups," reads the study.

Russia approved phase 3 trials of the "Sputnik V" vaccine on August 26, which will incorporate a larger group of 40,000 volunteers within different age and risk groups. Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko has previously said that the country will begin mass vaccinations in October, and that doctors and teachers will be among the first vaccinated.