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Sputnik V is the most discussed anti-COVID vaccine in the world. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, the little-known, at least in much of the West, Chinese serums and even the dreaded AstraZeneca do not enjoy the media and popular attention that Sputnik V, which even has a verified profile on Twitter, does.
The Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine, nicknamed Sputnik V for obvious sponsorship reasons, was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow. In addition to Sputnik V, the Gamaleya Centre is known for developing vaccines against MERS (the Middle East respiratory syndrome ‘cousin’ of COVID-19) and Ebola, among others.
The world is devastated by the economic crisis – the full effects of which are not yet visible – caused by the closures imposed by most governments in an attempt to contain the contagion. It is populated by people who have almost reached the point of despair and are asking for nothing more than a little normality after a year of uncertainty, terrible news, and constant closures. Never have vaccines been of such social and political, as well as health, importance. Never has it been possible to produce not one, but as many as eleven effective vaccines (the number of doses administered worldwide to date is around 300 million) in such a short space of time.
The vaccine is of crucial importance today. It is not only useful in preventing the spread of infection and the tens of thousands of deaths occurring every day: it is useful in gaining freedom. It is needed so that hundreds of millions of people around the world can live again, can populate city streets, parks and cinemas, restaurants and bars, stations and airports, schools and universities. It is needed for the economy to function again and, consequently, for people to start living again, but this time in the literal sense of earning a living: we are talking here about all the professionals and workers in the sectors affected by the closures who are only able to support themselves thanks to often insufficient government aid. The vaccine against COVID-19, whether from the United States of America, the Russian Federation, Angola, or North Korea, should be welcome everywhere if it is efficient. It seems, however, that this is not the case.
The governments of the world decide which vaccines to buy based on their political position. It is understandable and somewhat legitimate that the three states producing the most vaccines – the United States of America with Tozinareman (Pfizer-BioNTech), Moderna and soon Johnson & Johnson, the People’s Republic of China with serums from Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino Biologics, and the Russian Federation with Sputnik V (Gamaleya), CoviVac (Chumakov) and EpiVacCorona (Vektor) – have no intention of buying vaccines produced by their rivals. However, it would perhaps not be justifiable for third countries, which are not producers of vaccines but are just as much in need of them, to impose import barriers for political reasons.
Examples of this are the Republic of Serbia, which has purchased large quantities of vaccine from the USA, Russia and China, and Hungary, which – again – for political reasons, wanted to go in the opposite direction to that taken by the EU by purchasing doses of Russian and Chinese vaccine, arousing either admiration, scandal, or horror on the part of EU politicians. However, it is a fact that Hungary administered 13.34 doses per 100 inhabitants and Serbia 24.25, compared with 8.8 in Italy and 8.93 in Europe. Even the Republic of San Marino recently had to move to obtain doses of Sputnik V from Russia, due to delays in the supply of approved ‘Western’ vaccines promised by the European Union to Italy and by Italy to the Most Serene Republic.
It is necessary to take note of the situation of emergency and need in which we find ourselves and accept help from all parts of the world, without relying solely, as far as Italy and Europe are concerned, on the promises of US or British companies which, for obvious reasons, find themselves having to support very high demand for doses. There is the possibility of going East and implementing a better balance in the demand for vaccines: in this way, more vaccines could arrive, and the immunisation targets could perhaps be achieved on schedule.