Russia’s Institute of Experimental Medicine is now reportedly carrying out trials of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine that can be drunk from a bottle. Given the number of syringes and the time healthcare professionals need to give injections, it is hoped that the formula could speed up the process of immunizing millions of people, while leaving a pleasant taste in the mouths of those who’d rather not roll up their sleeves.
Alexander Dmitriev, a top boffin at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RIA Novosti on Friday that preclinical studies of the yogurt-based vaccine are now underway and could be completed within a year. According to him, experts put the cost of bringing the formula to patients at up to 220 million rubles ($2.9 million). “We’re currently looking for opportunities to secure the extra funding,” Dmitriev said.
Answering the question everyone was wondering, Alexander Suvorov, another scientist who has worked on the idea of the needle-free vaccination, told reporters that it would taste almost exactly like a popular local dairy drink, known as ryazhenka. The fermented baked milk-based beverage is beloved in Russia and Ukraine, and tastes not dissimilar to kefir or soured milk.
However, the team warns that its recipe shouldn’t be seen just yet as an easy answer to end the pandemic. “We are moving forward very carefully in order to avoid a situation where any new medical product begins to be perceived as a panacea that will save humanity,” Suvorov cautioned.
In January, one of Russia’s top medical scientists, Albert Rizvanov, the Director of the Center for Precision and Regenerative Medicine at Kazan Federal University, announced that the country would have to learn to live alongside Covid-19 for years to come.
“There are seasonal diseases that usually die out in late spring and early summer,” the academic said. He added that, like them, “the virus, I think, will stop spreading in Russia this summer. It seems that Covid-19 will become another one of the seasonal pathogens that cause respiratory illnesses.”
Fears that new variants could sweep through society on a regular basis have sent pharmaceutical giants scrambling to ensure they can make new formulas to protect people from the virus. On Thursday, CEO of American drugmaker Pfizer, Albert Bourla, said that those who had received vaccines would likely require a third dose within a year, and opened up the possibility that annual immunizations would be required.
Earlier this month, the makers of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus jab said that they had developed a new technology that would allow them to adapt and update their formula within 48 hours in response to the emergence of new variants. While questions about how long a revised edition of the vaccine would have to be tested for and if this could delay the process, Alexander Gintsburg of Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute said that “if it gives the same adequate protective effect against a new strain as it does with the original,” Gintsburg said, “you could immediately launch it into mass production.”
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