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Russian Vaccine Behavior

In the last post, I mentioned the Twitter response to the Brazilian rejection of the Gamaleya vaccine. I believe that the official blue-check-marked “Sputnik V” Twitter account is run by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the sovereign-wealth part of the Russian state that is in charge of rolling out the vaccine to different countries. In that case, the Russian Sovereign Wealth Fund needs to clean up its act.

I say that because of their aggressive political marketing. Here’s a tweet from earlier today, all about how countries that are “independent enough” to not only use “Western” vaccines but also the Russian and Chinese ones are doing better in the pandemic. But beyond this, they have also posted tweets about the safety record of their vaccine and others in Hungary, specifically claiming that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has “32x the death rate” and “6x the infection rate” of their own vaccine. That follows up on a tweet claiming that data across several international health sources shows that there is a higher death rate after administration of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as well.

These claims are bullshit. Posting them is a disgrace.

Here’s an analysis by Carl Bergstrom that goes into the details. To summarize, the first column for the international data is summarizing raw death numbers, not adjusted for population. The population-weighted numbers given are total deaths, not vaccine-associated ones: so yes, if someone gets vaccinated and then falls off a cliff, it’s going to be included. No accounting is made for how long any of the vaccines have been administered for. That also means that the differences in who gets the different vaccines in different countries are going to overwhelm the numbers as well. That applies to the Hungarian data as well: it appears that the Pfizer vaccine and others have gone into disproportionately older patients as compared to the Russian one, and that cohort of course has higher all-causes mortality as a background. No less an figure in the mRNA vaccine world than Katalin Karikó noticed this problem and others with the data (that link should take you to a Google Translate page, since I’m assuming that most readers here speak about as much Hungarian as I do). Update: here’s a translation from a native speaker.

What we’re seeing here is a deliberate attempt by the backers of the Sputnik-V vaccine to smear the competition, Pfizer especially. It’s not enough if they succeed – others must fail. This is a vile, destructive tactic that will do nothing but harm, and anyone who actually gave a damn about global health would have nothing to do with it. Promoting your own vaccine on its merits is fine, but spreading fear and doubt about the others like this is disgusting. The Russian Direct Investment Fund is deliberately promulgating lies. They should take down this crude propaganda, and if they don’t, Twitter and other platforms should take it down for them.

Postscript: I fully expect to see the defenders of the current Russian government’s honor – what there is of it – to jump into the comments here and on my Twitter feed. This happens most times anything mildly uncomplimentary about Russian issues appears here, and this post is a lot more uncomplimentary than usual. Come at me. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Russian people, who over the years have managed to make great contributions to humanity while cynically being abused by their leaders, who have too often been a series of despots and thieves.

122 comments on “Russian Vaccine Behavior”

  1. Peter Quinn says:

    This sort of thing makes it very difficult to take the official data on Sputnik at face value. It is clearly a political exercise, which is going to impact trial results in the responsible country. Not being allowed to publish if it’s not great is the least of it if they are being that politically aggressive as policy. And this baseless conspiracy theory posting is very much policy if it is coming from an official Russia account.

  2. Ammar Hasan says:

    “I have a great deal of sympathy for the Russian people, who over the years have managed to make great contributions to humanity while cynically being abused by their leaders, who have too often been a series of despots and thieves.”

    You just summed up Russian history in the last ~200 years, bravo.

    Such a shame, a lot me included still live in countries that import it and need this vaccine to succeed, this could have been handled with cooperation with health authorities this is an “unforced” shot in the foot.

    1. ThomS says:

      You could probably just shorten that to “you summed up Russian history”.

  3. dearieme says:

    There are times that I’ve despaired that Mr Putin – though presumably he is indeed a despot and a thief – is at least sane, intelligent, and patient, which is more than can be said for so many recent US presidents. This behaviour over the vaccine is bonkers however. What can they – whoever exactly “they” may be – hope to gain by it?

    1. Vader says:

      Sanity, intelligence, and patience are not virtues when coupled to a lust for power and a cynical disregard for the good of others. Remember the saying attributed to St. Irenaeus: “Fortitude in an evil cause is no virtue.”

      I do agree about the clownishness of most of the U.S. presidents of my lifetime. (I’m not a young Sith.) It is a tribute to the U.S. system that it has survived such leadership for so long. But eventually such leadership is going to wear down the guardrails. Probably within my lifetime.

  4. Mark says:

    What do they gain from it? easy turmoil and confusion, fewer people getting vaccinated all of this benefits them.

    1. John Dallman says:

      Also, it helps reinforce the message to the Russian population: that the rest of the world are liars and thieves, and Putin’s wise government is the only practical defence.

  5. WSHH says:

    Derek throwing hands in the postscript!!!! LESSSGGOOOOO!!! I’m here for it

  6. Andrase says:

    Dear Derek!
    Regarding “since I’m assuming that most readers here speak about as much Hungarian as I do”. Now you can sure, at least 1 native Hungarian speaker read your articles! 😉 I’m a Hungarian, living in Hungary. Actually, i know a lot of people in here, who read your blog! Your respected in the Hungarian Reddit! (r/hungary)

    Regarding the article (with Katalin Karinkó notes) google translate from Hungarian: pretty accurate (i check it).

    A little add-on information:
    – In here (Hungary/Europe) everyone laugh on this ‘data table’. Everyone know its a bullshit. Lot of peoples angry about that. Unfortunately this bullshit come from the Local government! 🙁 Yes, you can find it even in the government Facebook page!
    – In here, most of the Pfizer, and ‘near all’ Moderna goes to elderly/older peoples (Pfizer started end of December 2020, Moderna in 2021 2nd week). In the first times especially in the Elderly care homes. Sputnik vaccination in ‘amount’ started just around week 11. Approx ratio on age group ‘below 60’:60+: Pfizer 1:3, Moderna 1:3, Spuntik 1:1.
    – the ‘data table’ as its described, don’t contain any detailed data, like age groups, even not described how many days pass after the 2nd jab! (as we calculated in there, we assume they calculated with 0 day!), and so on. Also administered Sputnik 2nd jab amount is ‘still’ low, approx 717k 1st jab, and 209k 2nd jab at this days, most of the 2nd given only in the last few week (i get mine last Sunday)

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Thanks very much! All I can reliably say in Hungarian is “Köszönöm” and the names of some important foods!

  7. Julie says:

    Derek – ignore “the defenders of the current Russian government’s honor”, they’re paid trolls. if anything, you are under-uncomplimentary to Russian leaders. I grew up in Russia and I have a lot of respect for Russian scientists, but I’d assume the government would try hard to hide any potential issues, especially in manufacturing and distribution. I’d take the Sputnik vaccine if I had no choice, but otherwise no.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Thanks! I have to say, you are not the first person of Russian background to tell me that (!)

      1. julie7981 says:

        My big question is do these replicating adenoviruses actually still have Spike? Like one gets vaccine, and infects the whole household and all protected? I am kidding of course, but it might be buy 1 get 10 free

        1. Vader says:

          Now _that_ what I call looking for the pony in the pile of horse sh-t.

          I admit it’s an entertaining thought.

    2. RAD says:

      Four hours later and the paid trolls are missing in action, I’m genuinely surprised. Maybe the trolls or their authoritarian kleptocrat taskmasters keep (Russian) office hours. I wish we had better consolidated data for vaccine production facilities and their capacity. Production failure cover-ups aside, I expect the Sputnik V and CanSino adenovirus vectored vaccines to have the same rate of VIIT as we are seeing in AstraZeneca and J&J. The world is supply constrained and it is non-trivial to stand-up vaccine production facilities; geopolitical games are negative sum especially during pandemics. The globe needs timely vaccine production.

      1. Fyodor says:

        Well, they are just preparing the standard stuff…
        The initial response came from the commercial side and was a bit like old soviet propaganda, claiming falsely that “we are the best”. The number manipulation was obvious, these people are used to talk to local population and think they can get away with anything.
        Now the “real” guys will step in, and are already answering in this discussion. Their tactics are unchanged and and rather simple:
        – multilayer response with many, even internally contradicting stories
        – write many completely false notes, just to create a confusion and keep readers busy (ex. false claim “Brazilians have administered 5M Sputnik doses with no problem”, Sputnik is not approved and used in Brazil, or “Germans did due diligence on Sputnik”, they did not)
        – pretend western societies’ contradictions and conflicts are also Russians’, “we are just like you”, so , unscrupulous management pushes poor competent scientists, business people interfere with sane scientific process, you have your failures we have ours, etc.
        This “ruthless capitalists” piece does not need to be entirely untrue, the Russian Direct Investment state fund management is purely profit driven and uses all available means of a the criminal state, including intelligence services and propaganda organisations.

        After Slovaks rejecting Sputnik, for much the same reasons as Brazilians (inconsistency of quality) and now more detailed statement from ANVISA, Sputnik is in real trouble.

  8. David says:

    I’m shocked, shocked, to see the Russians trying undermine Western democracies.

    Seriously though, the posts from the Russian disinformation accounts detract from the positive impacts their vaccine provides, and does a disservice to the Russian scientists and medical personnel trying to do what is right.

    1. Fyodor says:

      “detract from the positive impacts their vaccine provides”

      how do you know that ?

      1. Earl Colby Pottinger says:

        Because if you see them post things you know you can’t trust (false), then you find anything else they post that is questionable you will think it to be more likely false than true.

        1. Fyodor says:

          my question was rather about “positive impact”, how do we know there is one ?

          1. Not Joe Smith Either says:

            I’m honestly impressed you aren’t posting under “Joe Smith”, Fyodor.

    2. David E. Young, MD says:

      After a phrase spoken in “Casablanca”, I presume. (“I’m shocked, shocked to find out that there is gambling in here!’)

  9. Dr. Seymour Tushi says:

    I bet the Kremlin sympathizers are going to be Russian into this comment section

  10. MamaJama says:

    In mother Russia, vaccine infect you

  11. Rhenium says:

    Derek does an incredibly admirable job keeping politics out of his work, sometime very challenging in the days of bleach injections and other promulgations over the last year.

    Thank you to Derek and bravo on this post.

  12. debinski says:

    The data they published in Lancet in February on interim results of their trial also appears to be bullsh*t. As I had mentioned back then, they made many ‘mistakes’ including what appeared to be post hoc fiddling around with their efficacy definition and not including all patients in their adverse event analysis. They excluded thousands of patients from the AE analysis for no good reason. I’d hate to see what their safety profile looked like if they included everyone. They still have not published their protocol as far as I can tell.

    1. Peter Quinn says:

      As I said, this sort of behavior, flagrant substantive lies for political gain, makes it impossible to take what they submitted to Lancet at face value. This is not an indeterminate process and the researchers have to be under tremendous pressure to produce results that make the government look good.

      The inability for anyone to really use this vaccine even as there are multiple crisis epidemics and mass vaccination elsewhere does indicate this project was beyond Russia’s grasp. They can’t manufacturer it. They promise it to people but have not delivered it, and when they do deliver to objective countries, there are showstopper problems. Which they then respond to unprofessionally, in both cases saying the regulators are incompetent and bad faith.

      1. emba says:

        I get where you are coming from; we live in a very adversarial world where honest work and effective products are obfuscated at the layer of marketing and geopolitics.

        Despite the inexcusable propaganda, I have to give the Russian scientists the benefit of the doubt. Selling stuff, no matter how incredibly virtuous the underlying product is (like all the approved vaccines in this case) is dirty business. Pharma critics could rightfully raise the dubious sorts of activities that US companies have been found to have been involved in, e.g.:

        Yet we still (correctly) trust them to produce products like today’s vaccines. It’s not easy to explain to, say, a child as to how this all makes sense.

        1. HA2 says:

          Well, one challenge is that the quality of the vaccine isn’t just up to the scientists – also up to, well, luck. Some very very big name companies, filled with brilliant scientists, have completely struck out in making vaccines that work. Just because the Russian scientists are also brilliant and doing their best doesn’t mean they succeeded.

          With the highly unreliable clinical reporting and clear political pressure to report positive results, there’s no good way to know whether they did or not. “Reporting clinical trial results accurately” isn’t the dirty business of selling things (or, at least, it shouldn’t be!)

          1. Erik Beall says:

            Merck, Sanofi, or GSK could have gone and excluded data so it looked like their attempts worked, rather than being honest with the data. However, I’m certain that dozens if not hundreds of whistleblowers would have blown the lid on it within hours of a press release claiming success, in the western world. I suspect Sputnik works at least well enough given no one inside the Sputnik pipeline is willing to die over revealing 50% vs 90% efficacy. Again however, given the manufacturing problems, the supply of Sputnik could range from being as good as that “works well enough” Sputnik down to “vial of adjuvant” Sputnik. Notice the propagandists do learn to pick their battles – they may be absent here because they can see its just making them look worse and worse (to regular readers here) but they’re still pushing hard in the court of world popular opinion in all their usual ways.

        2. emba says:

          The twitter account is clear evidence that Russian agencies are engaged in dirty business.
          There is also plenty of clear evidence that US Pharma companies also engage in dirty business involving multi-billion dollar fine and well known corruption.

          The relationship between the dirty business and how well the product actually works isn’t always clear.

          1. Dave says:

            <> Evidence: Trying the “look over there” technique. There is a big difference between “I am going to kill people by lying about my vaccine” (Russia) and “I am going to try to make more money than I should” (accusation).
            Don’t think we don’t notice.

      2. Not-an-epidemiologist says:

        I really hope that the clinical trials data that were published were valid, and that this response is coming direct from the Russian state. But I agree, this sort of appalling anti-scientific behaviour only serves to taint Russian science forever and ensure that no other countries will ever use this vaccine. (It’s so bizarrely counterproductive that it beggars belief.)

        It’s a pity, because a heterologous prime-boost adenovirus vaccine made a lot of sense. I wonder what the researchers at Gamaleya think of all of this; it must be heartbreaking.

  13. Dinnty says:

    This is kind of sad. They need to get some of their more experienced propagandists in there working on this. I’m sure they have someone who could do a really slick job.

  14. Jonathan B says:

    Just a question: have Gamaleya submitted proper clinical trial data to any of the regulators who have a high reputation for proper scrutiny before approval?

    I genuinely don’t know, Sputnik V data doesn’t seem to have been reviewed by the FDA, EMA, MHRA, but may have been by others.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      The EMA is supposedly looking at it now – should be interesting.

    2. Pablo E Garibotti says:

      The Sputink was approved for EAU by Argentina’s ANMAT
      More than 5 million dosis have been applied since without any major issue (thats is more than half the total covid-19 vaccine dosis applied in my country)
      The Health Ministry of the Buenos Aires City mentioned yesterday that the data is showing around 90% reduction of infection among vaccinated people (he is from a center-right party so no pro-Russian political bias)

      In Argentina we have applied around 8 million dosis (Sputnik 5m, Sinopharm 2m and AZ 1m)

      Disclaimer: I received the Sputnik’s first dosis last Friday (65 yo, no side effects)

      1. Tom says:

        I can’t speak for Derek, but I hope he may agree when I say this:

        The Sputnik V vaccine may well prove to have some efficacy (whatever the true numbers are at this stage) and could well provide support to the vital fight against Covid-19 with a potential wider rollout later on, especially if it beats the original FDA goal of 50% efficacy for approved jabs (using their target as a guideline). And if it doesn’t have too many adverse side effects (I’m pleased to hear you haven’t had any side effects) then all the better. What I understand Derek to be saying is that he doesn’t agree with the junk messages coming from them to undermine the efforts of vaccinating the planet in general, and that their lack of transparency in their messaging/data is damaging the efforts of efforts by others who are not engaged in such propaganda!

      2. Charles H says:

        No effects noticeable after the first jab doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t have any (Pfizer). After the second jab my upper arm ran a fever for nearly a week. Others experienced less of a reaction, and some received a stronger reaction.

        So you can’t tell from one jab, but even after the second jab you can’t tell from one sample.

        1. Pablo E Garibotti says:

          As mentioned, in Argentina the Sputnik is the cornerstone of the covid vaccination campaign.
          No major unexpected side effects for the more than 3m first dosis nor for the 500k second ones.

        2. Lily says:

          To Charles H:

          “No effects noticeable after the first jab doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t have any (Pfizer). After the second jab my upper arm ran a fever for nearly a week. ”

          Not being disrespectful of your experience, but do you mean that you some kind of irritating reaction, itching and something that feels locally “hot”. I do not think that you can have local fever.

          Unfortunately, our understanding of immune system and genetics is a lot less than people think. Just read what Derek has written.

          You are correct that reaction to the first shot does not guarantee the same reaction to the second. That is true with all medical interventions.

    3. J says:

      See WHO news update of 21 April. Joint activity with EMA

      “Update on Sputnik V Emergency Use Listing (EUL)”

  15. steve says:

    Let’s take a step back. The design of the vaccine actually is rather nice, with two different viruses to avoid immune responses to the vector in the priming dose affecting the booster. Germany recently ordered 30 million doses and presumably they’ve done their homework. The question is whether the science is good, not whether politicians cynically manipulate it (after all, can anyone here honestly complain about abuse of science OR about “despots and thieves” after four years of Trump)? What I’d really like to know (besides their true efficacy, which clearly is not known) is whether the clotting issue is a problem for Sputnik or for the CanSino vaccine. Is this a class effect of adeno or are they doing something different?

    1. RAD says:

      Germany recently ordered 30 million doses and presumably they’ve done their homework.

      As of two days ago [1], no German/EMA homework has been completed on Sputnik V.

      [1] EU doesn’t know enough about Sputnik V to approve it – Merkel

      1. steve says:

        That title hardly reflects the content of the article you posted nor does it imply that Germany made the purchase without any due diligence whatsoever.

        1. RAD says:

          Cool, my first encounter with a paid Russian troll, zdorovye! Full three paragraphs of article:

          The European Medicine’s Agency has not yet received sufficient information about Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to approve it, but if approval does come soon, Germany will buy it, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.

          “If it is soon it would naturally make sense to buy Sputnik doses,” she told reporters. “But if it is in some months then we will have enough vaccines here by then and we will face the question of how much do we order.”

          Merkel added that with vaccines becoming ever more abundant, it would be possible to abandon the current system of strict prioritisation of doses in June so that everyone in Germany could in principle get a vaccination appointment.

          1. steve says:

            Don’t be a fool and assume anyone who disagrees with you is Boris Badenov; that only shows your lack of ability to defend your position. Hungary has begun vaccinations with it. India, S. Africa and several other countries approved it and as I said, Germany has an agreement to buy 30 million doses upon approval. The idea that they did that without any due diligence whatsoever is just absurd. The point of the post was that science is science and the idiocy of politicians- whether Putin or Trump – in perverting science should not affect our assessment of it.

          2. steve says:

            BTW, you might want to ask yourself why, if this was just a mindless exercise, the German government didn’t also strike a deal to buy the CanSino vaccine.

          3. RAD says:

            Don’t be a fool and assume that blatant falsehoods, as demonstrated by direct quotes from Reuters, are simple differences of opinion. Your comment about the article title misrepresenting the content was clearly a technique used by someone too busy to read the 120 word article; an exemplary work of succinct news writing, IMO.

            The EMA is tasked with performing the due diligence on the Sputnik V vaccine for the EU (including Germany), as Derek Lowe clearly explained, and this work has not yet been completed. The Brazilian equivalent of the EMA has raised serious concerns about the quality and scalability of the Sputnik V production process. Seeding doubt at this point in time is a counter-productive tactic, comrade.

          4. steve says:

            Oh for goodness sakes, stop the BS. Germany ordered 30 million doses, all Angela Merkel said was that there was insufficient data yet for approval but once approved she’ll buy them assuming the market isn’t flooded. Germany pointedly did NOT buy 30 million doses from CanSino or Sinopharm. Stop being so full of yourself and get real. The idea that the German government would spend the time buying 30 million doses of a vaccine with absolutely NO due diligence whatsoever as you keep trying to claim is ludicrous on its face and is far different from what Merkel said despite your whiny protestations.

          5. steve says:

            And for those who wonder what Merkel ACTUALLY said. Hardly sounds like there was no due diligence; just sounds like there are a few remaining questions before the deal is done.
            “The documentation isn’t yet sufficient for authorization,” Merkel said. “If this authorization is received very soon, then it will of course still make sense to buy doses of Sputnik. If this only happens in several months then we’ll already have enough vaccine.”

          6. RAD says:

            My only interpretation, which I’m sticking by, is that you Comrade-Troll are an example of “the defenders of the current Russian government’s honor” that Derek Lowe mentioned in his Postscript. I have stated elsewhere in the comments that the “globe needs timely vaccine production.” I had no pre-knowledge nor opinion about the validity of your claim about Germany’s due diligence surrounding it’s purchase of 30 million doses of Sputnik V. I used Google, found the most recent reputable news source, and faithfully linked and quoted that article; the rest is a matter of reading comprehension. Your subsequent spin and deflection cement my suspicion of malfeasance.

          7. emba says:

            I read the Reuters article and a fairly plain interpretation is that Merkel expects to see Sputnik approved soon. The outcome should be observable in a few weeks one way or another.

            I’ll be happy to come back and eat my hat if this blows up into some sort of fiasco where Russia was blatantly lying about safety and/or efficacy. If Germany does approve it in a matter of weeks, I hope some of the commentaries here own up to some of the zeal we are seeing.

          8. RAD says:

            If it is soon…” she told reporters. “But if it is in some months…”

            Perhaps if…else logic suddenly eludes me, emba, but I don’t think there is much room for interpretation. For those employed by the Russian state that feel safe accessing Canadian media, this ~2min YouTube clip Russia takes authoritarian action against activists, journalists should raise concern. Stay safe.

          9. Not-an-epidemiologist says:

            RAD, I’m not sure your tone is helping here. Honestly, you and Steve are probably both half-right. I certainly hope that Germany didn’t negotiate a potential 30m dose Sputnik V purchase without some form of scientific consultation (the world has gone completely nuts* if they did). However, I also suspect that they’re taking the published data on spec and are strongly reliant upon any future EMA assessment. And I’m sure that this current behaviour from Russia has given them pause.

            FWIW, I agree with Steve’s original comment that the Sputnik heterologous prime-boost design was sensible and that this should have been a good vaccine. The world in general loses if a major player in the covid vaccine space can’t reliably and safely manufacture their product (especially if their response is to deny the problem, rather than fix it).

            * I am not ruling this out, sadly.

        2. Fyodor says:

          do you have any evidence of due diligence of Sputnik V vaccine done by any German federal or Land health institution? Do you have any report about somebody else then top politicians travelling or discussing with Russians ?
          I seriously doubt that. The press releases talk only about conditional advanced commercial agreements, pending EMA approval.

          1. steve says:

            First, I won’t address the shear idiocy of RAD’s comments, which are just too inane to even bother with. (Funny how right wing trolls always accuse people who disagree with them of being communists. Didn’t work in the 50’s, doesn’t work now). Fyodor, in answer to your question, the German government (of all governments!) wouldn’t put in an order for 30 million doses of anything with absolutely NO due diligence. It’s just a ridiculous argument on its face and is belied by the fact that they didn’t order the Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines. As the quote from Merkel said, “the documentation isn’t yet sufficient”. That says that they’ve looked at the documentation, which means they’ve done due diligence. Whether or not Russia ends up getting EMA approval is besides the point of the original post, which RAD perverted as appears to be his wont. The whole point of the original post was that governments – including ours for the past four years – can pervert science but we should judge things not on politicians’ absurd spin but rather on the merits (or lack thereof).

          2. Fyodor says:

            So, no evidence of due diligence or scientific contacts.

            Thank you.

          3. RAD says:

            Excellent. It’s like having an online chat with a resurgent “Baghdad Bob” 🙂

            Poor, poor “steve”, so hard done by. It must be hard being the champion of science and truth and have to deal with the idiocy of right wing trolls like me who insist on perverting the meaning of Reuters articles through the use of Copy and Paste.

            Good luck with the gig!

        3. Clueless German says:

          It also doesn’t mention that they did due diligence. The responsible German agency (PEI) explicitly stated that they are not planning a national emergency approval and refer to the pending EMA analysis.
          And yes, I as a German can absolutely imagine that politicians put in huge orders without due diligence. We have un upcoming election this fall and so far the German vaccine procurement wasn’t exactly a huge success to say the least. There is significant media pressure to finally catch up with the UK’s, US’s, Israel’s etc. vaccination efforts. And if politicians believe that they can achieve this by sourcing Sputnik, they will accept the risk to waste the taxpayer’s money.

        4. Laura says:

          Germany/EU have been ordering vaccines ahead of data to be sure that they’d get some in time.

          Also, it has been said (I have no way to evaluate that claim) that a sufficient number of people in Germany’s Russian community will trust Russian scientists above US ones. So they are likely to prefer Sputnik V, and that it makes epidemological sense to give it to them.

        5. emba says:

          I’d rather not live in Russia but I am not daft about dirty business of geopolitics.
          Let’s come back in a few weeks to compare predictions about Germany.

  16. johnnyboy says:

    You forgot to mention the times the head of the Russian Direct Investment fund referred to the Oxford/AZ vaccine as a “monkey vaccine”, and the reports on russian state television suggesting that this vaccine could turn people into apes (yes, seriously).
    The New Yorker has a good article on the development of the Gamaleya vaccine. An extract:

    “On November 9th, Pfizer announced that its interim Phase III data had shown its vaccine to be more than ninety per cent effective. Two days later, the Gamaleya Institute issued a press release saying that Sputnik V was ninety-two per cent effective. Then, on November 16th, Moderna said that its vaccine was almost ninety-five per cent effective. Another week passed, and the Gamaleya Institute updated its interim figures: actually, Sputnik V was ninety-five per cent effective, too.”

    I mean, who in their right mind could actually take them seriously ? When it looks like the program is being managed by a group of 13 year olds, the science, whatever its merits, loses all credibility.

    1. John says:

      I think you’re being unfair to 13 year olds. My son recently did a science experiment at school making an electromagnet with various sizes of nails as a core. Then they counted how many paper clips they could pick up. One of the nails lifted no paper clips at all. So he added a couple of paragraphs to his report theorizing reasons for the failure, rather than just dropping the anomalous data point.

      It’s more about integrity than age.

    2. Fyodor says:

      “referred to the Oxford/AZ vaccine as a “monkey vaccine”

      …there is a trace of this propaganda attack on the shipping boxes of Sputnik, it reads ”
      “Proven human adenoviral technology”

      and of course, marketing No 1, “best in class” :
      “The first registered Covid-19 vaccine”

    3. Ian Malone says:

      It has all been fairly unpleasant. I was quite willing to defend Sputnik V early on, the published trial data looks reasonable. But then you find out there’s a Sputnik V website which among other things pushes surveys on how many more people trust it than western vaccines, a bit weird, but maybe that’s Russia. And then you hear about the “monkey virus” attacks on other vaccines, which is distasteful. And finally you hear that, whether the original vaccine pairing worked or not, they’re now manufacturing something which contains a live virus and you realise why they might need to aggressively attack the “competition” (except it shouldn’t be competition, Covid-19 is the competition, until you also want to use your vaccine as a political tool, then alternatives become a threat).

  17. Robert Michaels says:

    Having owned and operating a business in Russia and Ukraine 25+ years ago – – and traveled extensively across the former USSR, I can say quite comfortably that it’s difficult to trust any information coming out of Russia, too much of it is propaganda, and of course many Russians learn early in life that bribery and deception is just how life works. I was there when the Russians invited Western oil companies in to co-develop their resources, I watched as most of them all were tricked and deceived, I was on flights with Western executives who detailed the scams, quite conveniently the Russians merely “used” the roughneck labor and know how of the Westerners to jump start their petroleum industry and now much of their oil sales are used to modernize their nuclear arms, their conventional weapons, harass Ukraine, and so forth.

  18. Pablo E Garibotti says:

    I have no doubt the RDIF is running a propaganda machine to support Russian interests

    And I have no doubt the American government is running a propaganda campaing to smear off the Russian vaccine
    “Combatting malign influences in the Americas: OGA used diplomatic relations in the Americas region to mitigate efforts by states, including Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia, who are working to increase their influence in the region to the detriment of US safety and security. OGA coordinated with other U.S. government agencies to strengthen diplomatic ties and offer technical and humanitarian assistance to dissuade countries in the region from accepting aid from these illintentioned states. Examples include using OGA’s Health Attaché office to persuade Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, and offering CDC technical assistance in lieu of Panama accepting an offer of Cuban doctors. “

  19. Darius J Wilkins says:

    1) At the end of the day, provided that the vaccine works (and it probably does, more or less), the consequences of the manufacturing deficiencies are overshadowed by the sheer raw need for vaccines in Brazil.

    2) It really should be kept in mind that the US was heavily pressuring countries not to get the Sputnik vaccine, and Brazil in particular has had member states requesting to import these vaccines–well before this apparent news appeared. I’m well aware that Russia is a shady place, etc, etc, but geopolitics should be kept firmly in mind.

    3) I have to wonder about whether we should be that much concerned about effectiveness. The Chinese vaccine products got a lot of people talking about how effective it is (not). If SputnikV was similarly ineffective, I’d think they’d be more news about it, from various sources.

    4) This incident probably is an even stronger reminder than that Baltimore factory incident, in the sense that quality control is going to be a persistent narrative as we vaccinate out of this crisis. I mean, we already know that China’s vaccine industry is shit, but we can see the struggles of India’s vaccine industry with various challenges. And of course, the modern West has had several mishaps (in particular, Johnson & Johnson has had several QC and production hiccups to date, and AZ has had major production hiccups). Sprinting towards huge vaccine production from starting gun is not easy. And this is not a game.

    5) It’s obvious that various nations and various companies think that covid-19 vaccines will become a lucrative line of products and a geopolitical asset, and probably we need to keep a cool head about claims and counter-claims–especially in the sense of letting time go by and more reporting happening before we believe anything. I mean, AstroZeneca has behaved with conspicuous recklessness at multiple points of their progress, and they have obviously maintained a highly sophisticated social media campaign with which to inject various narratives every time they got caught in the limelight–to the point of doing similar slanders we see the Russians doing today (the last one was misquoting a paper on strokes after vaccinations to imply that the mRNA vaccines also had similar side effects).

    I don’t have to worry about moral punishment of AZ or Gamaleya at my expense–got two doses of Pfizer. But maybe we shouldn’t be messing with people who need a vaccine, any vaccine that reasonably works right now, and perhaps we shouldn’t play along with these slanders? and (definite)counterslanders.

    1. Fyodor says:

      This is a prime example of a propaganded well rooted in classical rhetorical three step process…..simplified for the purpose to two steps.
      Step 1. create a mess, everybody has problems, all vaccines have problems, all vaccine manufacturing is a problem, there is a propaganda and counter propaganda.. the objective is to confuse reader and create a state of utter suspicion and mistrust of everything.
      Step 2. pickup the debris and create the story we want to push in the first place, “Sputnik is a reasonable answer to burning problems” and we should not listen to slender (meaning Brazilian health authorities being able to cultivate AD5 virus and infection from the vaccine, lack of adverse events data from phase 3 trial plus all production quality issues).

  20. Bill says:

    Chinese and Russians say yada yada yada.
    Once you lose your credibility you’re a long term member of the “consider the source” club.

    1. Charles H says:

      You’re being slightly unfair to China. They are LESS dishonest than the Russians. But you still need to carefully consider the source. Don’t believe a low level bureaucrat. They’re lying to their superiors as well as to you in order to look good. The official releases from the central government are more reliable, though it’s still heavily shaded and slanted news. But they seem to do more censorship than direct lying.

      1. Bill says:

        Seriously? These are the people who have suggested this virus actually came from a US military lab. Certainly not their fault.

        No, I will continue to be “unfair” to the the CCP.

        1. kismet says:

          Now you just fell for the sinophobic propaganda yourself. Both the US and China were involved in a childish battle over the origins of the coronavirus. With Trump blaming China, it was only par for the course for the Chinese propagandists to pick up Trump’s game. However, it was a propaganda battle clearly started by the American right wing nut job.

          see e.g.:

  21. Ilya says:

    I don’t want to wash RDIF out – no way!; and I hope – I wish I hope – that there’s some kind of error in this Sputnik-V/Brazilia issue; and after all I work in Russian pharma, and I know that this could happen, but… You know, we cannot wash out Brazilian authorities too – just because they are authorities. We can’t say that it’s pure science with no spot of politics (and others already pointed it out in their comments). I think you didn’t hear of this Sputnik-V/EMA story that is quite widely known here.

    Gamaleya: We applied for MA in Europe.
    EMA: No, you didn’t.
    Gamaleya: We uploaded the documents to EMA’s server.
    EMA: No, you didn’t.
    Gamaleya: OK, we uploaded them again.
    EMA: No, you didn’t.
    Gamaleya: Hey, guys, we have a printscreen with the “Uploaded” status!
    EMA: Ehhh… We lost them. Yes, we lost them.

    1. Ilya says:

      Wrong, they’ve uploaded them to the outdated server, and using a test mode.

      1. huh? says:

        Ilya, did you just respond to yourself?

        1. Ilya says:

          It was another Ilya as it seems. Not a rare Russian name. 🙂

        2. Ilya Yasny says:

          Sorry, I should have added my family name

          1. Ilya Murometc says:

            Vragi edut.
            Bitca budem..
            Opyat’… datut.

      1. Ilya Golubev says:

        Eh? I could see three of them on that webpage.

        1. Fyodor says:

          Please read the page again.

          There are 3 vaccines doing rolling overview but non has submitted an application for a marketing approval.

      2. J says:

        WHO web site download. WHO and EMA are jointly evaluating Sputnik. You can find this from their press release statements.

  22. Dmitry says:

    I am in Russia, and these last two posts are exactly the excuse I have been looking for not to get vaccinated myself with this thing, against all the peer pressure from the relatives. Thankfully, more or less everything important reopened here since a couple of months ago and looks quite fine, strengthening my impression that this has been a “fake pandemic” all along, so I can just forget about it (plus or minus a few sensible precautions like wearing a mask around people and not touching anything with bare hands in public places).

    1. stewart says:

      Russia’s reported case rate is almost flat. Russia’s not had much of a vaccine rollout. (While Russia seems to be underreporting cases and deaths, I don’t expect that they would do the same for vaccinations.) If things are opening up Russia’s likely to have another wave, especially if one of the more contagious variants gets established.

  23. J says:

    ” EU warns of disinformation campaign linked to Russia’s Sputnik vaccine
    A new report warns that ‘pro-Kremlin disinformation actors aim to undermine and fragment the common European approach’ on vaccines.”
    28th April, 2021

    Link in article to 13 page report. See in particular pages 5 & 6 on “Russian and Chinese state-controlled media target Western vaccines”

    1. S.A.Visitor says:

      Russian media targeting western vaccines? Amusing. Did you read the article you are replying to? It’s a perfect example of western media doing the same. Big money is involved. We just read the US Government report about US efforts to prevent Latin American countries from using Sputnik. Now let’s start complaining about the Sputnik Twitter account!

  24. Ilya Yasny says:

    I totally agree, although I’m from Russia. This misinformation about Pfizer harms Russian people as well. As one of data analysts here put it: people don’t here Pfizer’s vaccine is harmful, they here ‘Covid vaccines are harmful’ and refuse to vaccinate.

    Despite Brazilian findings I still think it’s better to get vaccinated with Sputnik (given there are no alternatives here) than to catch Covid.

    1. Ilya Yasny says:

      * people don’t hear Pfizer’s vaccine is harmful, they hear ‘Covid vaccines are harmful’, I mean

      Sorry for this broken English, I am very upset.

  25. Ivan says:

    > I have a great deal of sympathy for the Russian people, who over the years have managed to make great contributions to humanity

    Thanks for recognizing that there’s more to us than our, ahem, PR department.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Oh, for sure. Literature, music, mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering, and the list goes on from there. But the politics, the governments, and what’s been done to the Russian people in their name and by their orders!

  26. luysii says:

    There is actually some positivity in all this. The Russian trolls are just that — Russian. You don’t have a lot of sympathizers outside Russia toeing the party line. 60 years ago it wasn’t like this.

    An example:

    Reset the clock to ’60 – ’62 when I was a grad student. The best place to meet women was the International house. It had a piano, and a Polish guy who played Chopin better than I did. It had a ping pong table, and another Polish guy who beat me regularly. The zeitgeist at Harvard back then, was that America was rather crude (the Ugly American was quite popular), boorish and unappreciative of the arts, culture etc. etc.

    One woman I met was going on and on about this, particularly the condition of the artist in America, and how much better things were in Europe. I brought up Solzhenitzen, and the imprisonment of dissidents over there. Without missing a beat, she replied that this just showed how important the Russian government thought writers and artists were.

    1. Christian Weisgerber says:

      Actually, across Western Europe, it is the extreme right that is now cozying up to the Russian government. Go figure.

    2. wereapatheist says:

      I guess you are misremembering.
      Aleksander Solzhenyzin was practically unknown before the mid-sixties (he wrote his Nobel-winning tale in 1962).

      1. Derek Lowe says:

        “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” appeared in Novy Mir in November of 1962. It did get a lot of attention in the West, but of course at that point Solzhenitsyn had Kruschchev’s approval to expose what had gone on under Stalin, so it’s true that he wasn’t experiencing persecution for his views yet.

        The main Duke library had a large set of bound volumes of Novy Mir – I made a point once to go look at that issue, and the “Instead of a Foreward” introduction to the work. I can only imagine the shock and amazement it must have caused among the readers at the time!

  27. Georgi says:

    It’s somewhat surprising that Russia’s state industries are not more effective with injectables given their expertise in both topical (Novichok) and oral (polonium 210 and TCDD) formulations.

  28. sort_of_knowledgeable says:

    Those applications require less precision in amounts applied and tolerate a larger amount of contamination of the primary ingredient.

  29. me says:

    Don’t worry. They are using the same techniques that western media has used for decades to counter you 🙂


  30. Isidore says:

    Time to dust off our Cold War uniforms then

  31. J says:

    “Gov’t Publishes Controversial Data to Prove Sinopharm and Sputnik Better Than Pfizer”
    26th April, 2021

  32. J says:

    You might be interested in an article in Hungarytoday of 26th April, 2021. It’s called

    Gov’t Publishes Controversial Data to Prove Sinopharm and Sputnik Better Than Pfizer

    I’ve tried to post the link but this blog does not seem to like it. Suggest put the title into Google and it should pop up in the selection.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Just rescued it from the Spam folder!

    2. Trebitsch says:

      CDC data on vaccine death rates:;jsessionid=E4141F09ACCB53900D26D1F3BAE7?stage=results&action=sort&direction=MEASURE_DESCEND&measure=D8.M1
      Notice, that COVID vaccine is only a few months old, while the rest is many years totals!
      Draw your own conclusions, but everyone will believe what they want, of course.

  33. Russian messaging on Sputnik is fully in line with overall Russian government comms towards the West in both tone and intent:

  34. matt says:

    The tragic thing is the complete worthlessness of all this. The Gameleya approach is an innovative one that was certainly welcome. Really rigorous study of the immune reaction to this, compared to two of the same adenovirus vectors, would give us valuable information, either on vulnerabilities of using the adenovirus vector approach or workarounds for vulnerabilities or confidence that they weren’t too bad a problem.

    And goodness knows the world could use more supplies of vaccine, from whatever the source.

    The problems described are production scale-up and quality problems, which are fixable though with painstaking effort and attention to detail. As noted in the OP, wouldn’t be too hard to say “we are reviewing this information and our production processes to see if improvements need to be made” and improve things and keep going. Or license production to a Brazilian facility or European facility, and let them figure out how to satisfy their local medicine authorization bureaucracy.

    All the lies, redirections, blame-casting, gaslighting, and complete BS are such utter wastes of time while people are dying.

  35. J says:

    Wikipedia appears to have a comprehensive article on the Russian vaccine and related matters which is being maintained by different people.

  36. Henry Miller says:

    Russia’s (that is, Putin’s) agenda is to denigrate Western countries, their practices and products, even when Russia doesn’t benefit directly. It’s pure bloody-mindedness. See

  37. Christian Weisgerber says:

    From UK’s The Guardian:

    “Is Russia’s Covid vaccine anything more than a political weapon?
    Observers say the Sputnik V jab is aimed more at sowing political division than fighting coronavirus”

  38. J says:

    This article might interest given the current debate and reported situation on this vaccine.

    “Good Science, Bad Marketing? Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine Is Plagued By Controversy, Missteps”
    15th April, 2021

  39. Russian says:

    Honestly, in Gamaleya Institute research staff is looking for a gun… oops, for a vial with Yellow Fever whenever one mentions RDIF and its officials. This is disgrace indeed.

  40. J says:

    “Sputnik V is a Geopolitical Soft-power Weapon” (1 April, 2021)

    An interesting and comprehensive article? Seems to bring various elements together for consideration.

    Thank you for the articles on this blog and generally informative commentary.

    1. S.A.Visitor says:

      Those evil Russians! How dare they to offer life saving vaccines to European countries! Can the western propaganda be any more ridiculous. Any tensions in EU because of the Sputnik are caused by the problems in EU itself. They failed miserably with vaccination campaign and left poor countries without the vaccines. Now these countries are desperately searching for a solution to their health crisis and Russia offered one. Let’s blame the Russian bastards!

  41. Artemiy Okhotin says:

    Thank you for warm words about russian people. And crude propaganda is only thing our govt is able for. Sorry and spasibo.

  42. Fjodor says:

    Excellent write-up by Vasiliy Vlassov, Vice president, Society for Evidence Based Medicine, Moscow, Russia.

    Vasiliy Vlassov: Sputnik V and Russia’s covid-19 vaccine race

  43. Fyodor says:

    “Covid-19: Sputnik vaccine rockets, thanks to Lancet boost”

    Write-up on Lancet’s publication fiascos and inexistent peer-review.

    by “Christoffer van Tulleken is an infection doctor at University College London Hospital and an honorary associate professor at UCL in the division of infection and immunity”

    1. S.A.Visitor says:


      Do keep in mind that Christoffer van Tulleken is the dude who signed the original letter of concern about Sputnik publication written by Enrico Bucci (who failed to disclose the fact that his company makes money by questioning the results published in scientific publications). One might ask Christoffer the following question: why did not he write similar article about Lancet publication boosting Moderna vaccine? What’s the difference? All these publications were peer reviewed.

  44. J says:

    “Covid-19: What do we know about Sputnik V and other Russian vaccines?”
    publication 19th March, 2021

    Useful perhaps to gather together various related material on this matter?

    1. S.A.Visitor says:

      “Useful perhaps to gather together various related material on this matter?”
      Useful? Nope. Unless someone is paying you for that. Do they? Not a single overexaggerated concern of the western MSMs about Sputnik has come to fruition. It all turned out to be just a cheap propaganda. Vaccine is proving to be successful saving people lives. And Russia is the one offering help to now dozens of countries while the western democracies are busy helping themselves.

  45. S.A.Visitor says:

    “In the last post, I mentioned the Twitter response to the Brazilian rejection of the Gamaleya vaccine. ”

    Dear Derek, you never acknowledged that you were misled by Anvisa report and by taking it for the truth (it was not) you mislead your readers at this blog. As it was confirmed, Anvisa claims that they discovered RCA in Sputnik samples was a lie. It turned out that they never tested anything (they never do, and they don’t even have a lab for that). They just [mis]interpreted the data they got from Russia. The same data that 60 other countries got including the countries with way more experience in vaccines (like India). And only Anvisa (headed by a former military general) discovered RCA. That’s after Brazil promised USA that they would not use Sputnik What a coincidence.
    Now let’s look at another similar case of Sputnik rejection based on political considerations. This one was by Slovakia. They also complained about Sputnik. They said the doses they received were different from the description of Sputnik in Lancet. Sure they were. They received two forms of Sputnik, the second one was developed after the Lancet article was published. In violation of the contract, Slovakia went lab shopping and “tested” Sputnik in a lab that was not certified by EMA. All this happened in the middle of the political fight between different political parties in Slovakia. Eventually they agreed to send the vaccine to EMA certified lab in Hungary. Now the results from the Hungary lab are in and they are satisfactory: And now Slovakia’s government is set to discuss possible use of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine with Moscow after it was successfully tested in a Hungarian lab (

    You said: “These claims are bullshit. Posting them is a disgrace.” Well, you posted quite a bit of BS yourself, don’t you think? RDIF referred to a [questionable] study published by EU/NATO member country. RDIF is not a health organization, they are the promoters. Compared to the amount of BS about Sputnik published by the western MSMs, I think they are doing admirably.

    1. Visitor9 says:

      re “In violation of the contract, Slovakia went lab shopping and “tested” Sputnik in a lab that was not certified by EMA. ”

      In the contract, , there is no requirement that the Sputnik V be tested in an EMA certified lab. The contract specifically mentions SUKL “the State Authority responsible for inspection of medical drugs in Slovak Republic (in Slovak: Statny Ustav pre Kontrolu Lieciv)”.

      There is nothing in the contract about any testing to be done by a lab in Hungary.

      According to 1.4,
      “The Buyer is at any time during the term of validity (as defined in clause 9.2.) entitled to send experts from the State Authority responsible for inspection of medical drugs in Slovak Republic (in Slovak: Statny Ustav pre Kontrolu Lieciv ) (hereinafter referred to as the “Experts of the Buyer”) to undertake inspection of any production facility/site of the Seller (or of any of its subcontractors as listed in Schedule 5) in which the Products are produced for the Buyer and to request documentation as listed in Schedule 6 (medical, pharmaceutical, virological, chemical and similar) related to the Seller’s production of the Products. The Seller is obligated to ensure full access to the production facilities/sites of the Seller (or of any of its subcontractors) and release to the Experts of the Buyer any requested documentation.”

      So, the Buyer is entitled to the documentation as listed in Schedule 6 and the Seller is obligated to release to the Experts of the Buyer any requested documentation.

      The Buyer is still waiting to receive about 80% of the documentation.

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