Why do people in Russia — unlike citizens of other countries — actually sabotage vaccination, while the epidemic seems to be gaining momentum again? After reading the investigation “Operation E” in Novaya Gazeta (by Irina Tumakova) the reason becomes clearer: the state itself is doing everything to prevent citizens from trusting it…
The author of the investigation recreates in detail the story of the birth, testing and implementation of the “100% effective and safe, and even the most effective in the world vaccine” — this is how the staff of “Vector” (Novosibirsk State Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology), assessed their own brainchild EpiVacCorona from the beginning This story reminds us of the tale of the Naked King, played out by scientists and medical officials. Moreover, not only the reputation of all those involved, but also people’s health is at stake.
The protagonists are:
- Rinat Maksyutov, General Director of Novosibirsk State Research Center “Vector” and the creator of the EpiVacCorona vaccine;
- Alexander Ryzhikov (Ryzhikov the father), head of the Department of Zoonotic Infections of the State Research Center “Vector” and the main author of EpiVacCorona;
- Evgeny Ryzhikov (Ryzhikov-son); businessman, founder and director of “EpiVac” LLC;
- and, finally, the co-author of the vaccine and also the head of the regulatory agency Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova.
By the way, it was in response to the journalistic inquiry of Novaya Gazeta related to this publication that Rospotrebnadzor for the first time officially acknowledged that Anna Popova, indicated in the patent for EpiVacCorona as a co-author, is not just a “full namesake” of the head of the regulatory agency, as journalists used to write about her. She is that very head. “As a doctor of medical sciences, Anna Yurievna Popova participated in the development of the drug in the aspect of the application of the vaccine in the population”, — her subordinates explained. And the journalist specifies that by profession Popova is not a biologist, but a hygienist, since 1994 her career was purely administrative and was built in the sanitary-epidemiological service. She did her PhD and doctoral studies in ecology.… Well, and in the fact that Popova is associated with the creation and, apparently, the promotion of the drug, which, she has to control in her capacity of Rospotrebnadzor boss, the department seems to notice no problem.
The story began with Government Decree No. 723‑r of March 25, 2020. Rospotrebnadzor was then allocated 1.4 billion rubles “to work on the development of means of prevention and diagnostics of a new coronavirus infection”. The author of the investigation is figuring out why the project of the abovementioned developers was chosen. After all, even the “Vector” General Director himself claimed at a meeting with the President that his institute at that time had as many as six “candidate vaccines” against COVID-19.
Again we turn to Rospotrebnadzor’s response to the journalist’s inquiry: “The decision to choose the peptide vaccine EpiVacCorona for clinical trials was based on the positive results of studies on laboratory animals obtained by that time”. As it turned out, on rabbits. In addition, the developers promised to create a miracle vaccine in three months. For those who doubted, Maksyutov had another argument: this very group of authors had already made one peptide vaccine — against the disease caused by the Ebola virus, and also in a short time. However, when the author of the investigation dug into the information about the vaccine, for which the patent was registered in 2017, it turned out that there was no information about its use and, accordingly, its success. As a source connected to Vector told the journalist, by the time EpiVacEbola appeared, the epidemic in Guinea had ended, and the drug was simply deemed successful, that’s all. Moreover, according to this source, some developers at first believed that the fate of the SARS-CoV‑2 coronavirus would be the same as that of the Ebola virus: the epidemic would subside in six months to a year, and no vaccine would be needed.
But, as we know, it was needed. The author of the investigation collected the testimonies of volunteers who participated in the clinical trials. Many of them got covid already after vaccination and contacted Rospotrebnadzor. At first, the department, which is supposed to control “Vector”, simply brushed them off via Facebook, saying that “officially there have been no complaints from citizens” and that the volunteer community is just an “anonymous chat” in one of the messengers. By the way, people wrote in the “anonymous chat room” under their own names and posted documents scans.
The composition of volunteers turned out to be diverse – including not only experts in ecology, but also biologists, doctors, mathematicians, and statisticians. Not getting a comprehensible answer, they themselves organized an experiment to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine, which culminated in a letter to the Ministry of Health in March 2021. The volunteers did not demand to ban the vaccine — they complained about its ineffectiveness and asked the Russian Ministry of Health to organize an independent study of the immunogenicity of EpiVacCorona, namely “to analyze the viral neutralizing properties of the sera of those vaccinated EpiVacCorona using live SARS-CoV‑2 coronavirus”, and asked to make the results of the experiment public.
The answer from the ministry came on April 21 and boiled down to the fact that since the vaccine is registered, it means that it is safe.
But the volunteer testers didn’t give up. They tried to figure out the antibodies that were supposed to be produced by vaccinated people, but were not found during aftervaccination testing. The developers answered immediately: there are protective antibodies, it’s just that “crude test systems” don’t see them. They need to be checked only with a special test – the one developed by “Vector”. Soon, however, it turned out that half of those who participated in the tests did not have antibodies even according to the “Vector” test.
As a result, the main author of EpiVacCorona, Alexander Ryzhikov, quoted by the author of the investigation, had to admit that a certain lack of antibodies in humans compared to ferrets (“the titer is two orders of magnitude lower”) was “somewhat unexpected” for him: the effectiveness of the vaccine was “lowered” to 90 percent. Sometime later, Ryzhikov came up with a “radical” way to increase the effectiveness of the vaccine — he suggested that EpiVacCorona be vaccinated not twice but three times. Moreover, even the most ardent critics of the vaccine did not dispute the safety of the shots. However, no one questions the safety of the placebo either.
There are those who have followed this advice. For example, Oleg Sysuev, deputy chairman of the board of directors at Alfa Bank. He told Novaya Gazeta that he received the third injection, after which antibodies were miraculously found. And being confident that, for him personally, the virus for the near future is defeated, went to the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Union of Russian Cities. Those gathered for an important social event at round tables (of course, throwing off their masks) joyfully embraced each other, toasting into a common microphone. And three days later, the banker Sysuev felt the worst, as he confessed to a journalist, of his entire life. All in all, a positive test, lung damage, and other covid “joys”.
There are many curious details in the investigation about the manipulation of antibodies, and about the peculiarities of the vaccine. The advantage of the story is that the author, interviewing a huge number of experts, managed to “translate” their specific explanations from the scientific wording into plain language. Therefore, the text, despite the abundance of information, reads like a fascinating story. And by the way, the experts consider the very idea of the peptide vaccine interesting and promising. Their complaint to the developers is that in their haste, they most likely made a miscalculation even at the first stage, which is natural for any scientific experiment. But, instead of sorting it out and correcting it, they hurried up and “dragged” the mistake into further developments.
If the story of the vaccine reminds us of the fairy tale of the Naked King, then its creators can by no means be called “naked”. The journalist cites data recently published by Rospotrebnadzor itself about the incomes of the heads of its subordinate enterprises. By a surprising coincidence, the richest in 2020 was the “Vector” CEO Rinat Maksyutov with a monthly income of 1.2 million rubles, which is three times more than his salary in before- COVID 2019.
Novaya Gazeta also managed to find curious information about the Ryzhikov family. According to Spark data base, the trademarks EpiVacCorona (since 2020) and EpiVacEbola (since 2016) are registered as the intellectual property of the company of the director of LLC EpiVac, Ryzhikov Jr. The company, where he is not only the director but also the founder, has been in existence since 2015. Evgeny Ryzhikov is also listed as the creator of the EpiVacEbola vaccine. At the March (2021) meeting “On Increasing Vaccine Production and Vaccination Progress”, Ryzhikov Sr. introduced his son to Putin. The president responded: “Alexander Ryzhikov can be quite proud of Yevgeny Ryzhikov”.
This January, Prime Minister Mishustin ordered to allocate another two billion rubles for the production of EpiVacCorona. According to the public procurement website, the EpiVac company in February 2021 signed a contract with “Vector” for the supply of peptides, test systems (the very ones — especially “thin”) and purification of the carrier protein. It was worth 707.3 million rubles — almost half of the money allocated from the budget for vaccine production. Journalists compared the prices for the peptides specified in the contract with the existing prices on the global market and found that “Vector” was allegedly overpaid by about 10 times (Novaya Gazeta specifies that the calculations made with the help of molecular biologists and marketing experts are available in the newsroom).
And finally more on the numbers. By the end of May, two million doses of the EpiVacCorona vaccine were waiting for Russians in vaccination offices. By this time, both Rospotrebnadzor and its subordinate “Vektor” were, of course, aware of the vaccination results. Well, “Vector” has just announced that it intended to “seek international recognition” for EpiVacCorona and planned to apply to the World Health Organization…
Search technologies used by the author: work with databases, registries, documents and own sources; journalistic inquiries to all authorities and companies mentioned in the investigation.
Techniques used: interviews with experts; interviews with vaccinated and over-vaccinated people; analysis and comparison of data from different sources.