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The Flight of Sputnik V

So the Russians beat the world to a novel coronavirus vaccine. Big deal! High time we used it to save Pakistani lives

President Vladimir Putin himself broke the news about COVID 19 vaccine, invented by Russian scientist, which was heard with surprise across the world. Russia had become the first country in the world that succeeded to develop the most awaited vaccine against the coronavirus. It was, of course, rated with great achieve- ment of Russian scientific research and development.

There is no doubt that the development of the vaccine was not an easy task. Russia has made available the complete scientific data of its vaccine Sputnik V to the world.

Indeed, it was a great achievement of Russia, which developed a vaccine building on a SARS vaccine developed previously.

It is commonly known that SARS vaccine was effective and proved to be safe. The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Institute, which had previously developed and voluntarily provided a successful vaccine against the Ebola virus that has helped save millions of lives in Africa. The World Health Organization has also acknowledged it.

No adverse effects were observed in individuals from the first stage to the last stage of Russian vaccine preparation. Remember that there are five basic trials for the development of any vaccine, called clinical trials. According to the Russian Institute, this vaccine has passed through all five, which confirms this vaccine is very safe and effective.

In the first phase of clinical trials, the vaccine is tested on rodents including rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. In fact, rodents are genetically very similar to the human body. This was because many of the genes of humans and rodents, related to any disease are the same.

In addition, gnawers’ inbred lines provide a powerful tool for identifying the genetic basis of both early development and disease characteristics. The immune system of rodents and its basic elements are similar to the human system, allowing the effective- ness of immunotherapy to be tested. This helps scientists to draw conclusions about a vaccine or drug tested on rodents.

Rats have had an important role to play in the development of both the coronavirus vaccine and the drug. Ordinary mice do not suffer from the disease, so scientists are developing a new breed of genetically modified mice to be vaccinated against them by infecting them with the coronavirus.

In the second phase, the vaccine was tested on mammals, which is used to fully test the results of trials on mammals and also help scientists to achieve their targets.

In the third stage, the vaccine was again tested on animals that are compatible with human metabolism, including macaque monkeys or chimpanzees, in which the monkeys were injected with the virus. The infected monkeys were given a dose of the vaccine, and for eight weeks, scientists carefully examined the results to see if there were any reactions or side effects.

In the fourth phase, a group of one hundred patients were vaccinated, during which both positive and negative effects were carefully evaluated. At this stage, Russian Army volunteers took part, and thousands of male and female Russian soldiers were vaccinated under the supervision of the Russian Ministry of Defense. This phase was also successful.

In the fifth and final phase, the vaccine was subjected to rigorous testing – both on men and women of different age groups and physical conditions to determine its rare effects. In this phase, in addition to Russian soldiers, volunteers from the general public, including young and old people of different ages, were tested. The Sputnik V vaccine successfully passed all stages.

How Russia beat the world to the first vaccine against coronavirus is a question often asked by Western countries since. The answer is, Russia was the first country in the world to receive samples of the novel

Coronavirus SARS Code-19, which exploded in Wuhan, China in December last year. On 18 March, scientists at the Vector Institute in Novosibirsk released the first microscopic picture of the new corona- virus. Russian scientists discovered the structure of the coronavirus in March and released images of it.

Then there is the fact that Russia has had a great history of making vaccines since the last 250 years. The first vaccination in the history of Russia was given on 23 October 1768. And the vaccine that was given was none other than the most important and powerful patient of the Russian Empire at that time, Queen Catherine the Great of Russia – who was suffering from smallpox. The vaccine was developed to help the Russian queen to recover from this deadly disease.

This, then, is the context and background for the successful development of the Sputnik V vaccine that the hawks in the West are conveniently ignoring. The journey of Sputnik V, nevertheless contin- ues. After passing all phases of clinical trials, the vaccine is now being adminis- tered to members of the Russian military as well as the general public on a mass scale.

Internationally, orders from twenty countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America have stacked up to 1 billion vials of the vaccine and many more countries continue to get in touch with Russia to acquire the protection it offers against the deadly novel coronavirus.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is yet to make its move, because of – you guessed it, backdoor pressure from Western powers. This inaction is inexplicable given Pakistan’s precarious situation vis-à-vis the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us hope our leaders can grow the spine it takes to take a decision in the nation’s interest.

Jockeying for credit and a war-hawk mentality are both integral to the way the Western civilization works and as such, there is little that can be done to dissuade those who target a lifesaving vaccine in the erroneous belief they are manning the West’s duty stations in the information war.

On the other hand, it may be useful to note the Russian authorities have named the vaccine after the famed Soviet spacecraft that was the first to take animals into orbit and safely back to Earth. Just as the signal victory of that early artificial satellite belonged to all humanity for keeps and not to a nation or government, the success of the Sputnik V vaccine likewise belongs to all humanity for all times to come.

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