Lancet greenlights Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

A nurse prepares a dose of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for a patient at a clinic in Moscow, December 30, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
A nurse prepares a dose of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for a patient at a clinic in Moscow, December 30, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2021

Lancet greenlights Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Lancet greenlights Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine
  • Experts said the Phase III trial results meant the world had another effective weapon to fight the deadly pandemic
  • A two-dose regimen of the vaccine — administered 21 days apart — was 91.6% effective against symptomatic COVID-19

DUBAI: Sputnik V, the Russian anti-COVID vaccine, has been given the green light by the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet and is set to expand its global roll-out, including in the Middle East.

The Lancet on Tuesday published a peer-reviewed article which showed the Russian product joining the ranks of vaccines with more than 90 percent efficacy. It also rated Sputnik’s advantages in terms of safety, logistics and longevity.

Kirill Dmitriev is the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which has led the development of the vaccine.

He said that the drug, which is already registered in 16 countries, would be in 25 in the next two weeks and that he was in talks with Saudi health authorities and drug companies to register and manufacture the jab in the Kingdom.

The Russian vaccine, the first to be registered by any national authority, has been criticized in some quarters because of a lack of testing and transparency. But Dmitriev said that Russia was “right” all along.

“This is a vaccine for all mankind,” he added. “This is a great day in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The data published by The Lancet proves that not only is Sputnik V the world’s first registered vaccine, but also one of the best.”

Sputnik, which was developed at the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, was subjected to a third-phase review involving 19,866 volunteers receiving the two-dose treatment. It showed 91.6 percent efficacy. Until now, only the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have achieved 90 percent-plus efficacy rates in third-phase trials.

“Sputnik V generated a robust humoral and cell-mediated immune response,” The Lancet said, adding that it had an “excellent” safety profile.


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Frankly Speaking: RDIF’s Kirill Dmitriev


It found “no serious adverse events associated with vaccination, as confirmed by an independent data monitoring committee - no strong allergies, no anaphylactic shock.”

Publication in The Lancet is not an official medical endorsement but does mean the drug has been reviewed by a body of scientific experts and is a serious potential treatment for the disease.

In a statement, the RDIF said that Sputnik V had advantages over other vaccines with a 90 percent efficacy rate, including “a well-studied and highly efficient human adenoviral vector mechanism proven safe over decades; the vaccine’s low cost in comparison to other approaches; and fewer logistics requirements with a storage temperature of between two to eight degrees celsius allowing for easier distribution worldwide.”




Kirill Dmitriev is the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which has led the development of the vaccine. (AFP)

Dmitriev said that the fund’s partnership with AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish drug company that has produced its own vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University, could raise the efficacy rate of the Oxford product over a two-shot dosage.

He said that he was in discussions with medical authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Azerbaijan to conduct clinical trials of a joint Sputnik-Oxford product.

RDIF is also talking to Chinese vaccine producers about joint ventures to improve the efficacy of their products, Dmitriev said.


Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
Updated 41 min 23 sec ago

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
  • Italy’s PM favors EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official told Reuters
  • Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy's coast this year

ROME: Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office denied a media report on Tuesday that Italy was proposing that the European Union should pay Libya to stop migrants leaving its shores for Europe.
Draghi favors the EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official in Draghi’s office told Reuters.
But the official denied a report by La Repubblica newspaper that Draghi wanted to propose at a May 24 summit that the EU make a deal similar to one reached with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey is entitled to financial aid in exchange for hosting refugees who try to reach Europe via the Balkans.
“At the moment there is no initiative regarding creating a similar deal to what was done with Turkey,” the official said.
“The government’s position is that the EU must pay more attention to the situation in the southern Mediterranean and be ready to offer financial help to all African countries involved in migrant flows.”
Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s coast this year, about three times as many as in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.
More than 2,000 have since Sunday reached the island of Lampedusa, the initial arrival point for many people trying to get to Europe from Africa.
The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, are being transferred elsewhere in Italy.
The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.
In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.
On Tuesday, the executive European Commission said it had received no offers from member states to accept migrants from Italy.
The migration issue has fueled the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi’s national unity government and wants action.


Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
Updated 11 May 2021

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
  • Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags and shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people”
  • Protestors wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight pandemic

MADRID: A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.
Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.
Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 11 May 2021

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
Updated 11 May 2021

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
Updated 11 May 2021

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained
  • Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building

MOSCOW: A school shooting erupted Tuesday in the Russian city of Kazan, leaving eight students and one teacher dead, Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing local emergency services.
According to the Interfax news agency, two gunmen opened fire in the school, and one of them — a 17-year-old — has already been apprehended.

“According to preliminary information, the second attacker in the school in Kazan who remained in the building was killed,” the TASS state news agency reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building. Authorities said additional security measures have been put into place in all schools in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, roughly 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.
While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.