A group of scientists on Monday sent a formal letter to The Lancet outlining doubts about the accuracy of early data on Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, one of the authors said, adding further fuel to a dispute surrounding the “Sputnik-V” shot.
Fifteen scientists from five countries signed the letter presenting their concerns to the international medical journal, said Enrico Bucci, biologist adjunct professor at Philadelphia’s Temple University.
Reuters did not see the contents of the letter.
The move nonetheless highlights growing concern among scientists about the safety and efficacy of the Sputnik-V vaccine, which the Russian government approved for use before completing full human trials.
The official letter came days after a larger group of scientists — including the 15 — signed an open letter to The Lancet’s editor, published on Bucci’s personal blog, after the journal published the early-stage trial results from Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute.
They said they found patterns in the phase 1/2 data, which was peer-reviewed in the journal, that looked “highly unlikely,” with multiple participants reporting identical antibody levels.
The Gamaleya Institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the formal letter sent on Monday.
Last week, the institute rejected the critique contained in the open letter, which was initially signed by 26 scientists, but now has 38 signatories.
“The published results are authentic and accurate and were examined by five reviewers at The Lancet,” institute deputy director Denis Logunov said in a statement.
He said his institute submitted the entire body of raw data on the trial results to the journal.
The Lancet said it had invited the authors of the Russian vaccine study to respond to the questions raised in the open letter by Bucci.
“We continue to follow the situation closely,” it added.
Russian Assistant Minister of Health Alexey Kuznetsov on Thursday last week told the Interfax news agency that the institute had already sent detailed answers to The Lancet’s editor.
Naor Bar-Zeev, deputy director at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who peer-reviewed the Russian data, last week defended his analysis of the research following the publication of the blog.
“The results are plausible, and not very different to those seen with other AdV vectored products,” he said.
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