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Corona in Russia: This is how I was vaccinated with "Sputnik V"

Mass vaccinations against the corona virus should start in Russia before mid-December. President Vladimir Putin gave the country's government an order to do this on Wednesday. First doctors and teachers should be vaccinated. At the same time, the tests are to be continued with the vaccine "Sputnik V", which was registered in the summer. DW correspondent Sergei Satanovski took part in the testing of the vaccine developed by the Moscow Gamaleja Institute for Epidemiology. Here is his experience report:

Registration for the test vaccination

Already in September it was advertised on the Internet: "Become a volunteer to test a vaccine against COVID-19." Little information was available about Sputnik V at the time, and the number of new infections in Russia was not alarming.

At the end of November the situation changed and the number of new infections rose sharply. I decided to take the risk of vaccination. I was ultimately convinced by the plight of friends who were seriously ill and quarantined in their apartment.

The Russian vaccine "Sputnik V"

Searching the internet for "Coronavirus Vaccination" led me to the Moscow City Council website. A questionnaire had to be filled out there, including whether I had already contracted the new coronavirus, whether I had contact with someone infected in the past two weeks and whether I have chronic diseases. According to the health department, people already suffering from COVID-19 should not be vaccinated this season. About a week later, I was offered a phone call to choose a polyclinic to undergo a preliminary examination.

Examination in the hospital

I went to Moscow's Schadkevich Hospital for an examination. There I learned that the chief physician of this clinic is the well-known doctor and TV presenter Alexander Myasnikov. He is a friend of the well-known presenter of state television, Vladimir Solovyov, who is considered part of the Russian propaganda machine. At the beginning of the pandemic, he rated the likelihood of Russians contracting COVID-19 as "zero". I suddenly felt queasy, but it was too late to back down.

Before the examination, the doctor asked if I had been taking any medication recently. She wanted to know if I had any allergies and if I had had surgery. I had to call my parents to find out exactly what operation I was doing when I was five years old. During the conversation, the doctor gave me 16 pages of information material and verbally explained the content to me.

The Schadkewitsch Hospital in Moscow

There it says, for example, that the aim of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness, immunogenicity and safety of the vaccine Gam-COVID-Vac (trademark "Sputnik V"). The vaccine has been tested on animals in preclinical studies, such as Syrian golden hamsters and guinea pigs. With them, "Sputnik V" has proven safety and effectiveness, but with volunteers among people only safety.

Insurance policy for each participant

A total of 40,000 people will take part in the study: 30,000 will receive the vaccine and 10,000 a placebo. You will have to go to the hospital 21 days after the first vaccination because then you will be given the second component of the vaccine. In addition, the "Check Covid-19" app should keep a diary of how one feels. Otherwise nothing was asked of me. But there is another research study, and the doctor suggested that I take part.

It found that the main study did not include a blood test for immunogenicity, which is the vaccine's ability to produce an immune response in the form of antibodies that can neutralize the virus. Such examinations are carried out in an additional study. The state pays 8500 rubles (around 93 euros) to participate. Only 95 milliliters of blood are drawn so I agreed.

"Even if it is safe to take part in the study, there will be special insurance for you throughout the study," said the doctor. The insurance policy for the participants in the study states that in the event of death, the beneficiaries (in my case my parents) will receive two million rubles (around 22,000 euros). In the case of a disability, depending on the degree, between 500,000 and 1.5 million rubles (around 5500 to 16,500 euros) would be paid, in the case of a deterioration in the state of health without a disability around 300,000 rubles (around 3300 euros).

In the corridor of the Moscow Schadkewitsch Hospital

After the interview, I signed the consent to participate in the study and went to the examination. I was tested for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C and B, the coronavirus (PCR and antibody test) and for drug residues in the urine. Nothing was found in me and I was admitted to the vaccination.

Vaccine storage in special refrigerators

The examinations carried out are valid for one week, so I came for the vaccination exactly after seven days. There is a sticker on the door of the clinic that says "Come in for the COVID-19 vaccination". In the hospital itself, signs lead to the relevant department. There is a reception desk and four rooms: vaccination, doctor, examination, rest room.

At 10 a.m. two participants were present: myself and a woman of about 30 years of age. I reported to the doctor and went to the blood draw for the test for antibodies, for which blood has to be drawn several times. Then for the vaccination I went to a small room with only a few chairs, a medical table and two refrigerators from the Russian brand "Pozis". They cost around 150,000 rubles (around 1,600 euros) each. There the vaccine is stored at minus 28 degrees.

The doctor gave me a painless injection in the left shoulder. Then I spent half an hour in the relaxation room. I was told that some patients had their blood pressure decreased after the injection, but that it was normal for me. I received a certificate of attendance and was released home. Finally, I was told that my body temperature could rise. Then I should just take paracetamol. I was also asked not to plan a child for the next three months, as the effects of the vaccine on sperm had not yet been investigated.

After the vaccination you have to rest for half an hour

Chills and fever

It was only after the vaccination that I read how other participants reacted, including journalists and members of the "Vaccination Results" group at Telegram, in which more than 1,800 people came together. The evening after the vaccine (or placebo) was given and the next day, people complained of fever and muscle pain. When I left work around seven in the evening, I was already getting a headache, slight chills, and dizziness. I didn't rule out that it was imagination after all the stories I'd read.

But by late evening there was no longer any doubt that my body was responding to the vaccine. The body temperature rose to 38.6 degrees. The muscle pain increased after my last yoga session. All of this was uncomfortable, but it was gratifying that I had most likely got the vaccine and not the placebo. I took acetaminophen, recorded the symptoms in my digital diary, and went to sleep. The next day the temperature was around 37 degrees and the next day the side effects disappeared.

I will be injected with the second component of the vaccine in three weeks and I should start developing antibodies about 42 days after the first injection. However, the question of whether these antibodies can effectively fight the virus is still open.