Russia Has Only Major COVID Vaccine Neither Created Nor Tested with Murdered Baby Cells (CoviVac) - The West Should Use It

"CoviVac is also popular among Orthodox Russians. The Russian Orthodox Church said that it is better for Orthodox people to choose a different vaccine than Sputnik. The fact is that Sputnik components were made using a line derived from the kidneys of an aborted human embryo. According to the "Foundations of the Social Concept," to which the ROC refers, "any use of aborted tissue, including for the production of inoculations, cannot be justified from a moral point of view."


"CoviVac is one of the most mysterious Russian vaccines. It was developed at the M.P. Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Immunobiological Drug Research and Development. It has never been widely available and there are no scientific studies on it.

Demand for CoviVac is such that the vaccine constantly runs out at vaccination sites before it can appear. Last Friday, the Moscow Health Department reported receiving 12 thousand doses of CoviVac, but according to officials, there were more people willing to be vaccinated and there were queues.

Why do people choose CoviVac?

According to Nikolai M., a Muscovite, he and his family were advised by a doctor to get CoviVac. "My doctor told me to pay attention to the Chumakov Center vaccine. I didn't ask about it, I didn't go into details. If the doctor says - he probably knows it better than me," he explained to the BBC.

Nikolay assures that he knows approximately the difference between the existing vaccines, but he cannot professionally estimate the difference between them. Therefore, he relied on the opinion of the family doctor.

"Any Russian person has a desire on the subcortex to find something special, to go deeper and find something that is inaccessible to everyone. Judging by the queues for CoviVac, it is very much in demand," Nicholas discusses the popularity of CoviVac. - I personally have the feeling in my subconscious that "CoviVac" is more advanced than "Sputnik". And the desire to wait in line a little bit to get the best and not what everyone else has is also our badge of mentality.

The search for the drug was not easy: Nikolai unsuccessfully called five clinics, where, according to his data, the vaccine was "CoviVac". But then he saw a post on Twitter by an acquaintance about the availability of the sought-after vaccine in one of the clinics. That's where the Muscovite got vaccinated.

Mikhail B. from Cheboksary explained to the BBC his choice in favor of CoviVac by the fact that he had read about the technology of affordable vaccines.

"This vaccine has a 'standard' manufacture, if I may say so, unlike the others. - The interlocutor explained to the BBC. - Sputnik', so to speak, refers to wartime vaccines, as epidemiologists say, and does not contain a full-fledged virus in itself. So because of this I still opted for CoviVac".

Очереди на вакцинацию
After the introduction of compulsory vaccination for certain categories of workers, vaccination centers all over Russia have lined up / MIKHAIL DZHAPARIDZE/TASS

After learning from an acquaintance that the drug appeared in Cheboksary, Mikhail immediately made an appointment for vaccination. Soon CoviVac disappeared from the city.

Maria, a resident of Yekaterinburg (name changed), chose CoviVac for similar reasons. "This vaccine, unlike Sputnik, is created in a proven way, that is, by killing the virus and injecting it," she explained to the BBC. According to Maria, because of this, the effectiveness of the Chumakov Center's vaccine is higher than that of the Gamaleya Center's development.

The girl's mother, a cardiologist, also spoke in favor of CoviVac. I was able to find the necessary drug by acquaintance: "I made a special arrangement with my aunt, a physician, to have CoviVac left for me at the hospital where she works. My parents had also been vaccinated with CoviVac before me, and it was hard for them to find it, too.

Valeria M. from Volgograd. (name changed) told the BBC that her gastroenterologist advised her to vaccinate with CoviVac because she has chronic diseases, including Gilbert syndrome, bronchial asthma and allergies, and she takes hormones. All of her conditions are in remission. "She [the doctor] said there would be less side effects, it would be easier to take," Valeria says.

Another doctor allowed her to do Sputnik, but after hearing about the gastroenterologist's recommendation, they found CoviVac for her at the vaccination point, although others with her were denied the vaccine, Valeria says.

"At work, some of us got CoviVac because their clinic ran out of Sputnik. And as you know, a lot of people at work now have a "voluntary-compulsory" order on this issue," says Elena V. (name changed), an employee of the car leasing company Europlan. "I had to get something to bring my certificates so I wouldn't be suspended from work". She has not yet been vaccinated because she recently had the disease.

What is known about CoviVac?

The CoviVac vaccine was developed by the Chumakov Center, a well-known scientific center with a good reputation. It appeared in 1957 at the Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis of RAMS to develop the technology of vaccine against poliomyelitis.

The company is the only Russian producer of "live" polio vaccines and the only Russian supplier to the World Health Organization and UNICEF (an international organization operating under the auspices of the United Nations).

The virologist Mikhail Chumakov, after whom the center is named, with his wife Marina Voroshilova and Academician Anatoly Smorodintsev in 1956 organized the world's first production and clinical trials of a "live" polio vaccine in collaboration with the United States. The vaccine produced at the Chumakov Institute was exported to more than 60 countries and helped to deal with outbreaks of the disease in many of them.

The institute developed a vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever, and Russia's most popular anti-rabies vaccine against rabies (the center now provides about 70% of its needs in the country).

"CoviVac" is an inactivated ("killed") virus. This technology has been used for over 70 years. For example, the Chumakov Center's polio vaccines, as well as typhoid, cholera, plague, and influenza vaccines from other manufacturers, are made according to this principle.

Михаил Чумаков
The name of virologist Mikhail Chumakov ensures the reputation of the center named after him / TASS

"The technology of using an inactivated, that is, 'killed' virus is well studied," says Kirill Belan, a therapist at the Atlas Medical Center. "It is true that the technology itself is not a guarantee of the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. We need to analyze it in practice, in the natural environment."

"CoviVac" was registered on February 20, 2021 - this is the third vaccine approved for use in Russia against coronavirus. "CoviVac" is a double-dose vaccine, its doses are identical and administered 14 days apart. For "Sputnik" and "EpiVacCorona," the revaccination interval is 21 days.

CoviVac uses the AYDAR-1 virus strain (named after Aidar Ishmukhametov, head of the Chumakov Center). As Ishmukhametov himself explained, the initial virus for the vaccine was obtained "from a particular patient".

"Our staff worked at [the hospital] in Kommunarka, looked at about 400 different samples of the virus isolated from different patients. And now one of the varieties turned out to be extremely viable and at the same time "tame" - this strain multiplied well on a certain convenient medium, and now the "heirs" of this virus are being cultivated in our country and used for vaccine production," said the head of the Chumakov Center.

The results of sequencing variants of the virus were published by the vaccine developers together with Denis Protsenko, chief physician of the hospital in Kommunarka, in the journal of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Denis Protsenko co-authored a study on coronavirus sequencing/ VYACHESLAV PROKOFYEV/ TASS

The immune response enhancer (adjuvant), aluminum hydroxide, has been added to the vaccine. The virus in the vaccine is inactivated chemically: within 48 hours it interacts with the chemical active, and as a result it is unable to infect humans, the developers claim.

The Chumakov Center uses a special procedure to evaluate the inactivated virus for lack of residual infectivity. Only after a multistage check, the developers assure that the viral antigen enters the next stage of production.

CoviVac undergoes all stages of production, including final quality control, at the Chumakov Center in the settlement of Moskovsky in New Moscow.

According to the developers, 200 people took part in the first phase of CoviVac safety tests. No side effects or adverse events were noted in any of them. None of the test subjects allegedly even had a fever.

Has CoviVac been proven effective?

There have been no scientific publications on CoviVac, either on safety or efficacy. It is the most mysterious of the four registered vaccines. We can draw conclusions about it only based on the developers' statements.

Ishmukhametov assured Novaya Gazeta that several articles on the vaccine "are already available in Western scientific journals. According to him, articles on preclinical trials of the vaccine have been accepted for publication in several journals. But so far none of them has been published.

According to Ishmukhametov, permission for the third stage of clinical trials of CoviVac was received only in mid-June this year, when the vaccine was already in circulation and people were vaccinated with it.

Очередь в павильон "Здоровье" в Москве за "КовиВаком"
Muscovites lined up to get vaccinated with CoviVac / MIKHAIL JAPARIDZE/ TASS

"We won't be able to answer the question of protectiveness - or, if you prefer, efficacy - until after Phase 3 is over. And by and large, after the end of the epidemic," he says honestly.

The head of the center said that 32,000 people will participate in the clinical trials, but there will not be a placebo group, and the effectiveness of the vaccine will be tested against the population.

The effectiveness of another inactivated vaccine, the Chinese Sinovac, is estimated by the WHO to be 51% protection against symptomatic course of infection, 100% against severe COVID-19 and 100% against hospitalization. These findings are for the original Wuhan strain of the virus.

The efficacy of another Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, made on the same principle as CoviVac, was tentatively estimated at 79% against clinically severe infection and hospitalization. Against the South African strain, the efficacy of both vaccines is reduced.

After vaccination with CoviVac, the developers thought that antibodies should be produced against all parts of the virus. After vaccination with Sputnik, antibodies are produced only to the S-protein of the virus.

скрин с пресс-конференции "России Сегодня"
We can only draw conclusions about the vaccine from the words of the developers and experts. Here the Chumakov Center showed how many of those vaccinated with CoviVac show neutralizing antibodies. These data have not yet been confirmed by independent experts / ROSSIYA SEGODNYA

Judging by the test results published in the "people's reports" group, many people have no antibodies to S-protein after CoviVac. Some participants in the group still have antibodies to S-protein, but their titers are much lower than the average after vaccination with Sputnik.

According to experts, it is the high titer of neutralizing antibodies to S-protein that is important in preventing symptomatic coronavirus disease - at least for the strains now known. "This is key because the presence of neutralizing antibodies to S-protein and RBD prevents cell entry and infection," says physician Cyril Belan.

Those vaccinated with CoviVac appear to be more likely to find antibodies determined after the disease, according to the group. But there is no data on their protective properties.

The presence of one particular type of antibodies is not an indicator that you are protected against the disease, reminds the doctor Timur Pesterev. Scientists do not yet have enough data on how many antibodies are needed to protect against the virus and which ones - especially to protect against new strains. Some experts' calculations about protective antibody titers are approximate and have not yet been confirmed by studies.

"It is possible that when vaccinated with CoviVac, the titer to S-protein is simply lower than that of Sputnik V, because other antibodies are produced as well. However, this needs to be clarified," said Belan.

The Chumakov Center said in May of this year that volunteers who participated in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials maintained a protective antibody titer. Aidar Ishmukhametov, in an interview with Interfax, stated the pointlessness of antibody testing. "Let's all learn to trust scientific data and stop this mass unhealthy hype and championship of antibodies. First of all, protective immunity is not just about antibodies and not every antibody," he said.

He reported that the center is working with several manufacturers of test systems in order to develop "the most accurate and objective method to evaluate the protection of the body as a whole, not just the level of any of the antibodies" in the framework of the third phase of clinical trials, which began in June.

Are there any side effects after CoviVac?

People who want to vaccinate with CoviVac believe it usually causes fewer side effects.

"The advantage of CoviVac is its minimal reactogenicity, that is, less pronounced inflammatory side effects, which may be relevant if a person has not fully recovered from an illness he or she has retained markers of thrombosis and autoimmune reactions," Alexei Moskalev, doctor of biological sciences, chief research associate at the Russian Gerontological Scientific Clinical Center, an expert of the scientific council of Atlas Clinic, tells the BBC.

But "Fontanka" wrote that some people who were inoculated with CoviVac "had severe pain in their arms and muscles at the injection site, some had headaches", "all joints twisted violently", lymph nodes inflamed, and also exhibited a symptom characteristic of the coronavirus itself - changes in sense of smell.

In the group of "people's reports" after vaccination with CoviVac, many report weakness, drowsiness, a metallic taste in the mouth, a pulling sensation in the calf muscles, and pain at the injection site among side effects. At the same time, many people write about the complete absence of side effects.

The vaccine's instructions say that the most common side effects were pain (less than 15% of vaccinations) and swelling at the injection site (up to 1%), as well as common reactions: headache (up to 2% of vaccinees) and transient hyperthermia (up to 1%). Mild reactions were more common. There were no severe local or systemic reactions to the vaccination, the instructions say.

Many doctors and patients believe that CoviVac has fewer side effects / KIRILL KUKHMAR/ TASS

Contraindications to CoviVac include a serious postvaccination reaction or a history of complications from any previous vaccination, severe allergies, for example, if a person has had anaphylactic shock or Quincke's edema before. Do not vaccinate during pregnancy and breastfeeding, people under 18 years of age, or after age 60.

With "Sputnik" contraindications no longer include pregnancy, as well as age after 60 years - it can be done at any age from 18 years.

Temporary contraindications to CoviVac, as with other vaccines, include acute fevers, infectious and noninfectious diseases in the acute phase, as well as chronic infectious diseases in the acute stage.

"CoviVac is also popular among Orthodox Russians. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) said that it is better for Orthodox people to choose a different vaccine than Sputnik. The fact is that Sputnik components were made using a line derived from the kidneys of an aborted human embryo 50 years ago. According to the "Foundations of the Social Concept," to which the ROC refers, "any use of aborted tissue, including for the production of inoculations, cannot be justified from a moral point of view."

"Given a choice between such a vaccine and a vaccine developed without the use of embryonic human cell cultures, the roundtable participants are in favor of using the latter vaccines as ethically more acceptable," the ROC said.

The arguments of the religious community were analyzed in detail by the newspaper Indicator. The author of the article explains that the same line is used to test nutritional supplements and other products. "For example, Senomyx has patented more than 100 products where the embryonic cell line has been used in the testing phase. And now corporations like Nestle, Heinz, and Pepsi are putting these additives in instant soups, Kinder and other chocolates, ketchups, cream, chips, stock cubes, and so on," the article says.

The developers of Sputnik have assured that no human cells remain in the drug itself.

Why is CoviVac produced so little?

The simplicity of CoviVac technology is also a limitation for the vaccine manufacturer, since a license is required to work with the live virus.

So far, the center, which has a capacity of about one million doses per month, has only agreed to produce CoviVac with the Nanolek facility in the Kirov region. They have promised to start producing the vaccine not earlier than August and to produce 5 million doses by the end of this year. The BBC Russian Service sent a request to the Chumakov Center press service concerning other partnerships.

Production restrictions create a shortage of the vaccine, which may give some the mistaken impression that this vaccine is more in demand and therefore better than Sputnik, which is available in sufficient quantities at vaccination sites.

"A certain amount of hype around CoviVac is caused by supplying the vaccine in limited batches, which creates a relative demand for it. As far as I know, equipment upgrades are needed to increase the supply of CoviVac. And this issue is now being addressed," says Kirill Belan.

Некоторые пациенты все равно жаловались на побочки после "КовиВака"
Some patients still complained about side effects after CoviVac / KIRILL KUKHMAR/ TASS

"Apparently, the peculiarity of the mentality is such that they trust something more scarce. The concept of 'scarcity' is equivalent to something good," explains doctor Timur Pesterev. "I think it is necessary so that there can be a choice. But I wouldn't say that CoviVac is better because it's rarer".

Two other Russian vaccines are produced using different technologies. "Sputnik is a vector vaccine where human adenovirus of two different types is built in as a vector. A fragment of the SARS-CoV-2 gene, which encodes the S-protein, is 'embedded' in it. There have been many publications about Sputnik in international publications - on safety and efficacy, on action against new strains, on side effects (data from Argentina), on safety (data from San Marino, you can read a translation of the doctor's article here).

"Sputnik Light", which is now used for revaccination and vaccination of migrants, is identical to the first component of "Sputnik".

"EpiVacCorona" is a peptide vaccine that contains artificially synthesized small coronavirus proteins. Scientists have many questions about this vaccine - they have doubts about its effectiveness.

Further Reading:

Russia's CoviVac more than 80% effective against COVID-19 -Ifax

WARNING: There are THREE different vaccines named "CoviVac" . . . (The good one is from Russia.)

Source: (Russian)

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