Although the official death toll from COVID-19 currently stands at 4.5 million, individual experts estimate that the actual death toll could be as high as 15.2 million.
Therefore, it is not surprising to see increased attention in all countries on the effectiveness of the world’s vaccines against the coronavirus pandemic and an active discussion of this topic in the media.
For example, a scandal has recently developed in Japan around a vaccine from the American company Moderna, where foreign substances have been detected in more than one batch. This was reported on the Okinawa Prefecture website on August 29, among other things. According to Newsweek, stainless steel particles were found in several batches of Moderna vaccine in Japan, prompting the Japanese Ministry of Health to announce the suspension of approximately 1.63 million doses of Moderna vaccine from three lots produced in Spain. For example, vaccination was suspended at a vaccination center in Okinawa as well as in Kanagawa Prefecture after a pharmacist “found black particles in one vial of vaccine.” As Newsweek notes, this comes at an unfortunate time when Japan is struggling hard to cope with an increased wave of coronavirus infections, with the number exceeding 25,000 per day for the first time in August.
The Guardian reported the other day that Japanese authorities have discovered another, now the third case of death after receiving a dose of the Moderna vaccine. According to The Guardian, cases of vaccine contamination were also reported in Okinawa, Gunma and Kanagawa Prefectures in late August and early September.
In Japan, as it became known, the most widely used vaccine within the framework of anti-coronavirus vaccination comes from Pfizer. However, citizens of the country have already received at least 12.2 million doses of Moderna preparation.
On the other hand, adverse incidents have also already been reported with the Pfizer vaccine in the country. Thus, earlier on August 28, it became known about two deaths among Japanese residents who had received doses of the drug from batches where foreign substances were found, reported Reuters regarding the statement of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan. The deceased were men aged 38 and 30 years who had no previous history of chronic disease or allergic reactions. They were vaccinated with the second dose of vaccine on August 15 and 22, respectively. The day after the vaccination, both had a fever. Three days after the vaccination, both died of unspecified causes. In Okinawa Prefecture, experts found foreign substances in Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as well. The Health Ministry contacted Pfizer, which responded that “it is highly probable that it was a rubber crumb from the ampoule cap that broke off due to improper piercing with a syringe,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on August 31.
In this regard, according to media, Japanese authorities have launched an investigation. Moderna and Takeda Pharmaceutical, which distributes the vaccine in Japan, issued a joint statement assuring that they intend to conduct a transparent and comprehensive review as soon as possible into how impurities may have been in some of the drugs.
In addition to these incidents, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reviewing the risks of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, in people vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine. The basis for the review was the data from a Canadian study, which suggests that the Moderna vaccine, compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech development, may pose 2.5 times more severe risk of myocarditis for young people, especially for men under 30 years of age. As The Washington Post notes, the agencies have previously warned of this side effect and have now promised to notify the public if new information emerges. As the publication recalls, in June, the FDA already added a warning to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that they increase the risk of myocarditis. As the newspaper points out, authorities are acting very cautiously to avoid panic among the public, especially during the spread of the “delta” variant as officials try to convince more Americans to vaccinate.
More than 130 people have died after being vaccinated against coronavirus with Comirnaty by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in Switzerland, the Swissmedic, a Swiss surveillance authority for medicines and medical devices, reported. According to the agency, by August 10, 5,304 cases of adverse effects were known, most likely after the use of vaccines, of which 1,934 reports refer to the Comirnaty vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech, and 3279 reports refer to the Moderna vaccine. Of all the side effects, 1,838 were reported as severe.
According to the Ukrainian Pervy Nezalezhny TV channel, there are claims to the American vaccine Moderna in that country, where a 50-year-old woman died from coronavirus in Kyiv after being injected with the first dose of this drug. According to the TV channel, Head of the National Medical Chamber of Ukraine, Serhiy Kravchenko, stated that the woman fell ill with the coronavirus in an acute form immediately after being inoculated after returning from a holiday in Turkey.
Another Ukrainian media outlet, Vesti, reported that the country has become a natural testing ground for Western pharmaceutical giants. And testing drugs against COVID-19 is far from the only profile they work on. Swedish companies AstraZeneca and Cyxone, US companies Atea Pharmaceuticals, AMGen, Octapharma, Merck & Co., China’s Shanghai Junshi Biosciences, Korea’s Celltrion, among others, are testing their drugs, and Ukrainian InterChem and Ecopharm are testing the effectiveness of Amixin and Flavovir, well-known in Ukraine, against the coronavirus infection. “Central Europe is thought to have already depleted its reserves, and Ukraine has become one of the treasure troves for clinical trials around the world. The low level of healthcare provision forces citizens to go along with these projects and appreciate them as a boon,” Vadim Aristov, a Ukrainian infectious diseases specialist, told Vesti.
Criticism of the AstraZeneca vaccine was published by The Independent, pointing out that in May, British radio presenter Lisa Shaw died of a brain hemorrhage shortly after receiving her first dose of the drug. Doctors diagnosed that her death had occurred just over three weeks after the vaccination. A new investigation has confirmed that the cause of the 44-year-old woman’s death was a side effect of the coronavirus vaccination.
As for the effectiveness of vaccines produced by Western countries, one of the most popular of them in the world Pfizer-BioNTech, which supposedly provides the most significant protection against the coronavirus, is rapidly losing its effectiveness against the “delta” strain, Al Arabiya reports. These are the findings of a study conducted by UK researchers in partnership with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Britain’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Moreover, in countries where the drug has been used, it has been decided that an additional dose should be given to those who have already been vaccinated. The study also tested a vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, widely used in the UK, Europe, and elsewhere, and showed a drop in its effectiveness.
Eight thousand Israelis vaccinated with Pfizer’s drug had a ten-fold decrease in antibody concentrations after six months. This is according to a study by a group of scientists who published the results on medRxiv.
Against this background, the Norwegian publication Forskning points out that millions of people around the world have been successfully vaccinated with Sputnik V or three Chinese vaccines against coronavirus. Still, they have not yet been approved in Europe. Meanwhile, new research suggests that Sputnik V is a promising vaccine and is effective against the delta variant. This was confirmed to the scientific publication Science by John Moore, an immunologist from Weill Cornell Medical College. His objectivity is confirmed by the absence of any relation to the organization that created the vaccine – Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Russia.
In these circumstances, the statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on August 17 in his speech to faculty and students at Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University about the apparent politicization of the delay in registering Russian vaccines against the coronavirus in the West becomes more understandable.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.