NYT First Reinforces, Then Silently Debunks Its False Claims About Russia’s Covid-19 Vaccine

20 September 2020 — Moon of Alabama

Western reporters to not like to correct their own false reporting. They rather reinforce it as much as possible. Only when overwhelmed by the facts will they silently admit that they were wrong in the first place. Here is a prime example of how that’s done.

In mid-August we exposed how ‘western’ media lied about the approval for phase-3 testing of the Russian Sputnik vaccine against Covid-19. They said that Russia claimed the vaccine was ready to go population wide. That never was the case.

‘Western’ Media Falsely Claim That Russia’s Covid-19 Vaccine Is Ready To Go

Russia has not approved a vaccine against Covid-19 and it is not skipping large-scale clinical trials. The Russia regulator gave a preliminary approval for a vaccine candidate to start the large-scale clinical trial. […]

Science Magazine is one of the few media who got it right: …

One of the false reports we pointed out was by the New York Times Moscow correspondent Andrew W. Kramer:

Russia Approves Coronavirus Vaccine Before Completing Tests

Russia has become the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Tuesday, though global health authorities say the vaccine has yet to complete critical, late-stage clinical trials to determine its safety and effectiveness.

By skipping large-scale clinical trials, the Russian dash for a vaccine has raised widespread concern that it is circumventing vital steps — and potentially endangering people — in order to score global propaganda points.

Russia had, as we and Science Magazine reported, never the intent to skip large-scale clinical trials. Kramer made that up.

In new report today Kramer reinforces his previous false and disproven claims to lament about an alleged slow distribution of the Sputnik vaccine in Russia:

Russia Is Slow to Administer Virus Vaccine Despite Kremlin’s Approval

More than a month after becoming the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Russia has yet to administer it to a large population outside a clinical trial, health officials and outside experts say.

The approval, which came with much fanfare, occurred before Russia had tested the vaccine in late-stage trials for possible side effects and for its disease-fighting ability. It was seen as a political gesture by President Vladimir V. Putin to assert victory in the global race for a vaccine.

It is not clear whether the slow start to the vaccination campaign is a result of limited production capacity or second thoughts about inoculating the population with an unproven product.

The Times author reinforces his own lie that Russia had declared its vaccine ready for population wide application. It had never done that. The official registration of the vaccine by the relevant authorities was only a necessary precondition to start the large scale phase-3 testing of the vaccine. There never was a Russian intent to distribute the vaccine to a large population without phase-3 testing.

In the bottom third of his long piece Kramer comes near to admitting that. There he describes that the Sputnik phase-3 testing is now ongoing. That contradicts all of his previous reporting on the issues though he himself never says that. But even now he is getting the details wrong:

The trial in Russia began on Sept. 9, and Russian officials have said they expect early results before the end of the year, though the Gamaleya Institute, the scientific body that developed the vaccine, has scheduled the trial to continue until May.

That timeline is similar to the testing schedules announced by the three pharmaceutical companies testing potential vaccines in the United States, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer.

The Russian late-stage, or Phase 3, clinical trial is being carried out entirely in Moscow, where 30,000 people will receive the vaccine and 10,000 will get a placebo.

Yevgenia Zubova, a spokeswoman for the Moscow city health department, said in an interview that the vaccine was available only to trial participants.

Those last two paragraphs, which completely debunk Kramer’s original reporting, should have been at the very top of the piece. They are buried down in paragraph 23 and 24 of a 29 paragraphs story that starts out with an epic repeat of the previously made false claims.

Kramer is wrong to say that the testing is limited to Moscow. As explained on the Sputnik Vaccine website:

Post-registration clinical trials involving more than 40,000 people in Russia will be launched in a week starting from August, 24.

A number of countries, such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Philippines and possibly India or Brazil will join the clinical trials of Sputnik V locally.

[…] Mass production of the vaccine is expected to start in September 2020.

That testing of Sputnik V will also happen outside of Moscow has been confirmed by recent reports:

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund will supply 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine to Indian drug company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the fund said on Wednesday, as Moscow speeds up plans to distribute its shot abroad.

Dr Reddy’s, one of India’s top pharmaceutical companies, will carry out Phase III clinical trials of Sputnik-V in India, RDIF said.

It is not Russia that is fudging the testing of its vaccine. It is the Trump administration that is planning to do so out of political reasons:

Eric Topol @EricTopol –18:10 UTC · Sep 19, 2020

We have the protocols. Now we know how there will very likely be an Emergency Use Approval (EUA) for a vaccine prior to November 3. The company and political motivations are fully aligned.

The criteria for an EUA is that it “may be effective”  https://fda.gov/regulatory-inf …

16. If there was any doubt about @HHSgov @SecAzar’s plan to make sure there is an EUA for a vaccine before Nov 3 (see 10. above), then you can read this by @BySheilaKaplan  In ‘Power Grab,’ Health Secretary Azar Asserts Authority Over F.D.A.

In contrast to the U.S. the Russian testing of its Sputnik vaccine will be -as usual- of high integrity and will strictly follow the protocols such trials are supposed to follow. In paragraph 29, the very last one in today’s NYT story, the author at last admits as much:

[W]hen medicines are tested, Russia has an exceptionally good track record on managing clinical trials, according to a database of U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections of clinical trials around the world.

The F.D.A. found a lower percentage of trials with problems in Russia than in any other European country or the United States.

If I get the chance to chose a vaccine for myself I will rather take the one which was developed by a highly qualified state financed research institution and approved in Russia than one developed by some profit oriented pharmaceutic conglomerate that is in cahoots with a politicized regulator under the Trump administration.

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