A Covid-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia generated neutralizing antibodies in dozens of study subjects, and while the vaccine often caused side effects such as fever, those side effects were mostly mild, according to data published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet.
In the phase one and two studies, all 76 study participants developed antibodies to the virus that causes Covid-19, according to the report.
The levels of neutralizing antibody response were similar to the immune response that people had after naturally recovering from Covid-19, according to the study.
The researchers also looked at responses from T cells, another component of the immune system.
“[Outcomes from] the trial also suggest the vaccines also produce a T cell response within 28 days,” the researchers wrote.
Remember: Scientists not involved in the study said while the results are a positive sign, only larger, phase three trials can confirm whether the vaccine actually prevents illness with Covid-19.
“The data on the Russian vaccine studies reported in the Lancet are encouraging,” said Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In the study, half of the participants developed fevers and 42% developed headaches. In addition, about 28% experienced weakness and 24% had joint pain.
The article did not say how long these side effects lasted but said “most adverse events were mild.”
The vaccine was registered in Russia in August, before it had gone through large-scale trials. The researchers at the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Russia received approval on August 26 to do a phase three trial, which is expected to have 40,000 volunteers, according to a press release from The Lancet. The researchers are already distributing the vaccine to high-risk groups, according to Kirill Dmietriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is financing Russian vaccine research.
Gamaleya is using adenoviruses in their Covid-19 vaccines; this is the same type of approach used in the vaccine developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The adenovirus delivers genetic material for the spike protein that sits atop the virus the causes Covid-19, and that genetic material is designed to generate an immune response to the virus that causes Covid-19.
Adenoviruses can cause a variety of symptoms, including the common cold. The researchers manipulate the virus so it will not replicate and cause illness.
The Gamaleya vaccine is given in two doses, and each dose used a different adenovirus vector.
“Using two different viruses gives a theoretical advantage,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at the University of Pennsylvania.