Russia Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Promise in Trials Despite Reported Creation at Former Biological Weapons Lab

Russia was the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for general use, and now another one is reportedly on the way, despite widespread controversy about its development. The country launched a medication called the Sputnik5 vaccine in early August, claiming it had passed all the necessary trials, but patients began to show serious side effects according to a report by the Daily Mail. Critics were also wary of the drug's creation in a lab that was formerly used for Cold War-era biological weapons.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has attested to the efficacy of his country's two coronavirus vaccines, despite reports of serious side effects such as swelling, pain, hyperthermia and itching at the injection site. However, his administration is moving forward with a follow-up vaccine called EpiVacCorona, which is already facing similar skepticism. Many scientists outside of Russia say that there is no possible way the vaccine could have been tested thoroughly enough for use on humans in so short a time. The World Health Organization said last month that a working vaccine would not be possible until at least early 2021.

EpiVacCorona is in its late stage of clinical trials and is expected to be approved by the end of September. So far, scientists on the project say that there are no side effects on human test subjects. These volunteers have been under observation in the hospital for 23 days now, and Russia's health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, has reported positive results.

"All inoculated volunteers are feeling well. To date, the first vaccination was administered to 57 volunteers, while 43 received a placebo," they said. "All volunteers are well. No adverse reactions have been detected so far."

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Still, scientists around the world remain skeptical of both Sputnik5 and EpiVacCorona, not least of all because they are being developed by the Vector State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology. This Siberian institute was reportedly used to manufacture illegal biological weapons in the Soviet era and is still one of the only two labs in the world permitted to keep a stock of smallpox. The other is in the U.S.

In the 1970s, Vector manufactured smallpox to be used as a weapon, under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev. The lab also weaponized the Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, reports say. Now, the lab has 11 other coronavirus vaccines in the works, on top of the two that have gone to human trials. It is unclear whether any other countries will accept Russia's controversial vaccines.