THE NEUTRAL ZONE
South Korean firm GL Rapha is set to produce over 150 million doses annually of the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V. This partnership is a part of Russia’s overall goal of distributing its homegrown vaccine abroad after the country announced Wednesday that Sputnik V was 92% effective in combating COVID-19.
The vaccine has not been assessed by independent vaccine experts outside of Russia, but Hungary is also preparing for test trials of Russia’s vaccine. Dr. Ferenc Falus, Hungary’s former chief medical officer, expressed his concerns regarding Hungary’s hasty adoption of the vaccine, stating, “I would be happiest if vaccines brought to Hungary have been approved by the European Medicines Agency.” Hungarian government officials released a statement Wednesday explaining their decision to move forward with test trials, stating Hungary is “open to any solution, be that Chinese, Russia, Israeli, American, or a vaccine from other countries.”
Experts outside of Russia are critical of Sputnik V and its alleged 92 percent efficacy rate due to the fact that the vaccine was announced to have that rate despite having only 20 total COVID-19 cases covered in the vaccine and placebo groups, which most experts agree is too few to be certain the vaccine is sound.
Hackers from Russia and North Korea are attempting to steal confidential vaccine information, according to a report released by Microsoft on Friday. Hacks into vaccine research are typically done to boost the offending nation’s own vaccine efforts and less likely to be designed to harm the country they are stealing from, yet this form of tampering can still end up causing harm to them anyway, experts say. Microsoft reports that the hackers linked to Russia are called Strontium or APT 28, which are not the same group that attempted similar hacks over the summer. The North Korean linked hacks are using phishing techniques posing as the World Health Organization in an attempt to get workers to divulge their login credentials.
Korean firm to make Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine amid lingering doubt – KBR – 11/13/2020
“The vaccine supplies to the global market will be produced by RDIF’s international partners in Korea, India, Brazil, China, and other countries,” the Moscow-based fund said. “The existing RDIF contracts with international partners enable the annual production of 500 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine outside Russia.”
Microsoft says hackers backed by Russia and North Korea targeted COVID-19 vaccine makers – TechCrunch – 11/13/2020
The technology giant blamed the attacks on three distinct hacker groups. The Russian group, which Microsoft calls Strontium but is better known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, used password spraying attacks to target their victims, which often involves recycled or reused passwords. Fancy Bear may be best known for its disinformation and hacking operations in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, but the group has also been blamed for a string of other high-profile attacks against media outlets and businesses.
Kremlin Spin Doctors are Leading Russia’s Vaccine Development – Foreign Policy – 11/13/2020
Moscow alone is reporting thousands of cases each day. Other regions lack credible testing and reporting regimes but show evidence of a similarly severe pandemic. Moscow recently closed restaurants and bars from 11pm to 6am, leaving residents only 17 hours each day to contract coronavirus at their favorite watering hole. It is hard to see how such measures will slow the virus’s spread. Like in many countries, opposition to social distancing is growing. All this serves as a reminder that the world needs vaccines fast.
As countries line up for Russia’s vaccine, not everyone is buying it – Axios – 11/13/2020
Yes, but: The rhetoric from Moscow has been far out in front of any evidence that the vaccine is safe, effective and can be developed at a sufficient scale to be distributed around the world. The bottom line: “Why is Russia doing this? It’s the international vaccine race. They want to be seen to be keeping up with their competitors in other countries,” John Moore, a vaccine researcher at Cornell, told Science. “It’s clearly a rushed out announcement. But it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”