At the beginning of the week, The Sun tabloid claimed UK spies “have proof” that the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, was created based on the documents “swiped” from AstraZeneca “by a foreign agent in person”, and later, The Daily Express also published its own article citing The Sun. However, quite soon The Daily Express has retracted its accusations replacing it with a statement by Sputnik V’s developers.
There is a Latin saying, ‘Victorae non arbitrare’ which means “success is never blamed”. This apparently doesn’t apply to the British press that simply cannot stop its attempts to put dirt on the Russian flagship vaccine Sputnik V. Unfortunately for The Sun’s editorial staff, they didn’t check out some basic scientific details of their story which now reveal that their accusation is an outrageous lie.
The Sun claimed that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was created by copying the blueprint of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine. However, according to the developer of Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine uses a completely different molecular technology compared with the British one – Russians work with a human adenovirus vector, while the British vaccine is of animal origin, Sputnik reminds.
Sputnik V was the first Covid vaccine to be registered in the world back in August 2020 – just five months after the global pandemic was declared and months before British and American vaccines were approved. Besides, the Russian vaccine was created by the Gamelaya Institute that has a world-class reputation in the research and development of vaccines, as it has been working on its adenovirus delivery platform for the past seven years.
Thus, already on Tuesday, The Daily Express retracted the story entirely leaving only the original headline but replacing the copy with the text of a statement by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that funded Sputnik V’s development.
“The article also contained false information. As an apology, we are happy to set the record straight,” The Daily Express added to their article.
“Rather than spreading fake stories, the UK media and Government services should better protect the reputation of AstraZeneca, a safe and efficient vaccine that is constantly attacked by competitors in the media with facts taken out of context,” the RDIF advised.
In turn, The Sun has not retracted or corrected their article, only adding a one-sentence quote from a London PR firm representing the RDIF, describing the original story as “another fake news and blatant lie based on anonymous sources”.
A lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party who previously served as head of Russia’s health authority, Gennady Onishchenko, said that the people involved in the story ought to be fired.
“I suggest they send The Sun’s journalists for a psychological evaluation. And the MI6 employees should be fired for losing the ability to do their jobs,” he added.
The lie doesn’t touch us: Efficacy of Sputnik V proved again despite false accusations
In addition, it was announced that Russia’s Sputnik V demonstrates up to 82 per cent efficacy against coronavirus strains, according to the Director of the Clinical Research Department at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases, Andrea Antinori, on Italy’s Rai 3 TV channel.
“Sputnik’s efficacy against strains has been proved to be 82 per cent. Compared with the 88 per cent efficacy of Pfizer’s shot, it is not much lower. It is a high efficacy, at least against the Delta strain, which was proved by laboratory tests,” he said.
According to Antinori, his institute took interest in the Russian vaccine after the publication on its efficacy in The Lancet scientific journal, TASS reports. He emphasized that the general efficacy of 91 per cent (of Sputnik V) is much higher than of other adenovirus-based vaccines, beginning with the Swedish-British AstraZeneca and the US’ Johnson & Johnson.
“It is one thing to have scientific data, and there is not much to argue about because Sputnik is effective, at least not less effective than other vaccines that have been approved. But it is quite another thing when it comes to production inspections, and the assessment of bioreactors – this is a job for regulators. But I don’t think we should depend on regulators’ conditions when assessing the quality and efficacy of the product,” Antinori said.