Kazakhstan is an unexpected member of the club of countries producing vaccines against Covid

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Kazakhstan began its vaccination campaign on Monday with its own Covid vaccine, QazVac, which is currently in phase 3 clinical trials. The serum was developed by the State Institute for Biosafety Research, which specializes in biological weapons research during the Cold War.

On Monday, April 26, Kazakhstan launched a Covid-19 vaccination campaign with the QazVac serum developed by this Central Asian country.

According to state television, 50,000 doses of a two-dose vaccine developed by the State Institute for Research on Biosafety (RIBSP, as its acronym) have been distributed across Kazakhstan, the world’s largest economy, Central Asia. Health Minister Alexei Tsoi received the first dose of the vaccine live on television and was confirmed to feel “good.”

The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, for his part, welcomed the scientific breakthrough of his country, which became one of the few countries in the world to develop its own vaccine against Covid-19, after the approval of the national production of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. This Central Asian country was the first foreign country , which produced the Russian vaccine on its territory.

>> To see: Covid-19: Cuba launches vaccination of carers with its own serum

What is this vaccine ?

QazVac is neither an adenoviral vaccine, that is, a vaccine that uses a non-pathogenic virus to induce an immune response (for example, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson), nor a messenger RNA vaccine (for example, BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna). It uses the Sars-CoV-2 virus itself, but in an inactivated form (for example, CoronaVac from China and Covaxin from India).

It requires an injection of two doses three weeks apart and can be stored at 2 to 4 ° C. In a second phase of clinical trials, RIBSP claimed 96% efficacy.

According to the institute cited by Le Monde, “Using a whole killed virus would allow much more flexibility than other vaccines to adapt to the emergence of options.”

He is really ready ?

This is one of his main criticisms: the final phase of QazVac is still ongoing, and no conclusions are expected until July 2021, Fortune magazine emphasizes. “The Kazakh health authorities decided that the deployment could begin from the moment when the phase III trial, which involved 3,000 people, was at least half completed,” the economic journal notes.

In comparison, in November 2020, the American laboratory Pfizer announced that the 3rd phase of trials of its Covid vaccine, developed in conjunction with the Germans BioNTech, is being carried out on 43,000 patients.

What is RIBSP, the institute that developed QazVac? ?

If the State Institute for Biosafety Research was able to develop its own vaccine, it was partly due to the history of this institution, created in 1958, at the height of the Cold War, explains the investigation. From the Kazakh version of Forbes, quoted by Le Monde.

The goal then was to protect the USSR from infectious diseases that could infect agricultural land and livestock, according to the RIBSP website. “In fact, the Dzhambul Agricultural Research Institute (DNISKHI), as it was then called, was created to develop biological weapons as part of the concept of offensive biological warfare,” says Forbes. After the plague that hit the country in 1963, “the institute began to move closer to the” defensive “line, that is, to develop means of defense against biological weapons,” – the American news site emphasizes.

Despite sharp budget cuts in the early 1990s, the institute, located in the south of the country, managed to continue its activities and retain high-level researchers. “From the very beginning, in December 2019, we realized that business [du Covid-19] was serious because before that we tracked other bat coronaviruses, ”Institute director Consoulou Zakaria told Forbes.

QazVac is the sixth human vaccine developed by the institute. But not a single scientific publication has yet been published. Consoulou Zakaria believes that publication will be possible by September, when the third phase of clinical trials is completed.

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