Professor Kouvelas: It is incomprehensible why we are not getting the Russian COVID-19 vaccine


Dimitrios Kouvelas, professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, raises three big questions about new technology vaccines such as Pfizer’s, while he considers the Russian Sputnik V, which is old technology, safe and without serious side effects.

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing its “teeth”, the world community is eagerly awaiting the vaccine that will rid the pandemic. Millions of people around the world are sick and over a million have died, and countries like Russia are ready to release the vaccine.

The scientific community is studying the two types of vaccines that are ready for use, such as the Russian Sputnik V created by the internationally renowned Gamaleya Institute, which is characterized as a “conventional type,” and the Pfizer vaccine, as well as Moderna, which are characterized as “genetic type” vaccines.

Professor Dimitrios Kouvelas.
Professor Dimitrios Kouvelas.

Professor Kouvelas in speaking with Sputnik Hellas, explained that the Russian vaccine is old technology “from what we expected to have” and its advantage is that they “do not expect any serious side effects.”

“Sputnik V is a vaccine of old technology, that is, of what we have always done. They have used two different types of viruses, which are harmless to humans. But when you put them together, they give what we call chimerical products,” he explained.

“So they make antibodies that also catch on SAR-CoV-2. This is the knowledge we have in relation to the Sputnik V vaccine,” Kouvelas explained.

The AUTh professor stressed that the scientists expected such vaccines – that is, that they have “either one or two viruses or pieces of the virus that we would synthesize and put in the final preparation without the gene material of the virus,” he said.

The advantage of Sputnik V

“The advantage of the vaccine is that we know what it is, so we all feel more secure with such a vaccine. We do not expect any serious side effects from these vaccines,” the professor explained.

Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

“The vaccines we have been using for years have no side effects because they are of high purity, they are very well made, some just may not respond as expected. These are the most vulnerable, like a person taking cortisone because he has an autoimmune disease (cortisone suppresses the immune system),” the professor continued.

“So if we give him a vaccine, it will not be stimulated because we keep him immunosuppressed. But this person is more likely to get sick. Or the elderly. So what do we do? So for them we want herd immunity, to vaccinate the rest to protect people who will not be able to get vaccinated. This is our approach to classic vaccines,” he said.

Kouvelas stated that this technology is also the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The Commission’s decision not to supply the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is incomprehensible”

What happens to the Pfizer vaccine?

On the other hand, the Pfizer vaccine is of a different technology, with Mr. Kouvelas himself saying that it is a product that he can not describe as a ” vaccine ” in the classic sense of the word.

“Pfizer has made a product, I cannot really describe it because it is not even a vaccine in the classic sense of the word, it is something completely new,” he said.

This product is essentially a synthetic, artificial coronavirus RNA, a sequence of RNA bases, which when given to the body, it will enter and be integrated into our cells,” the professor continued.

“It will start working as messenger RNA and will make protein synthesis in our own cells and our own proteins will be produced in antigenic information, which can stimulate the production of antibodies in our body,” he said.

The antibodies that will be created will not infect any of our organs, but they will be there and they will wait for the possible invasion of the coronavirus and they will have the possibility to destroy it,” described Kouvelas.

The professor adds that the great advantage of this method is that they do not use foreign proteins and therefore do not cause allergies or other side effects.

“Theoretically it is ideal,” said Kouvelas, who pointed out that over the years scientists have had significant obstacles in transporting RNA without a “vehicle” into the human body.

“Suddenly, that is, very quickly and without prior knowledge, the two companies (Pfizer and Moderna) come and say ‘we solved the problems we had’,” pointed out Kouvelas, adding that until now “if we wanted to transfer RNA for experimental reasons, we used viruses that we altered for the genome we needed or some phages (viruses for the germs) and we put the germ to make the protein we needed.”

“Now they say ‘we have found how to put it in cells without a vector, without a virus, something harmful, which we do not know exactly what it does.’ That is, they have not given us the information, the scientific literature, how they did it,” the professor stressed.

The three question marks

According to Kouvelas, the first big issue is instability. The second issue is that they have passed the artificial RNA that will then cross the membrane, while the third has to do with the cells.

“The first difficulty is instability. They said that they maintain it at -70 degrees, but when it is injected into our blood, how is it destroyed? Why don’t white blood cells “eat” it?” the professor questioned.

“The second ‘wall’ we had to overcome is how this RNA will cross the cytoplasmic membrane because the RNA did not cross the membrane and we needed a virus, now they do not use it and even manage to pass it through,” he explained, adding “We also do not know how they do this.”

“And the third huge problem is how I target the cells that need to ‘speak.’ What made it stable when it entered the specific cells – not the one in front of it, but where it is needed. These are the three big questions that the companies say they have overcome,” Kouvelas underlined.

Regarding the intention of the state to set up vaccination centers, Kouvelas said the opposite and considers that the vaccination should be done by the personal doctor or health visitors.