Life after Sputnik: is it worth it for those who received the Russian vaccine to be vaccinated in Europe

Today, the European “green certificate” is being introduced – a certificate of the presence of antibodies to coronavirus or the absence of infection, designed to facilitate travel across the EU. Residents of European countries vaccinated by “Sputnik”, however, will not be given it on the basis of vaccination, since the European Medicines Agency has not yet approved the Russian vaccine.

In mid-June, the epidemiological situation in Russia began to deteriorate sharply : In a couple of weeks, the daily number of infections doubled, and by the end of the month in Moscow the number of infections and deaths exceeded the peak figures of last autumn. Partial mandatory vaccinations have been announced in many regions.

At this time, restrictions are already being lifted in Europe with might and main, and life is gradually returning to its usual course, adjusted for the ongoing pandemic. The third wave came to European countries in the spring, when everything was calm and open in Russia, and people were already beginning to forget about the threat of coronavirus. Vaccination went on neither shaky nor fast: by the beginning of the summer, only a little more than ten percent of Russians had taken root ( here you can read why this happened). One of those vaccinated by “Sputnik V” was a resident of the city of Loviisa Alexey Shkvarov .

– I did not wait for my turn in Finland and in the spring got vaccinated in a St. Petersburg clinic, having signed up for the State Services. Before that, I talked to my acquaintances from the Military Medical Academy and asked if I could be vaccinated with Sputnik with my concomitant diseases. They gave the go-ahead – and I went for vaccination, – says Alexey.

Returning to Finland, he was not satisfied with the fact that he was protected from the coronavirus, but decided to get a vaccination mark in the Finnish medical database.

– I wrote to the clinic with such a request. I was told to bring my documents and the Russian certificate of vaccination in English. And a few days later, the data appeared on the Omakanta portal, indicating the dates of the vaccinations and the name of the drug. Probably, everything went so quickly and smoothly, because it is a small city.

European perspectives

However, in June another question arose before the vaccinated Sputnik. In May, the Russian vaccine, as expected, was not approved in the European Union. It was not approved in June either. But today a pan-European system of so-called “green certificates” has begun to operate.

A green certificate is a certificate, in national languages ​​and in English, that its holder has been vaccinated with one of the EU-approved vaccines, has had COVID-19 in the past six months, or has recently tested negative for coronavirus. Each of the EU and Schengen countries must apply the same rules of entry to the holder of the certificate as to their own citizens, but time will show how this will be implemented in practice.

The catch is that in order to obtain a certificate on the basis of vaccinations the drug must be approved by the European Medicines Agency EMA. Finland has its own rules until July 11: it allows citizens of three categories from the Schengen countries without restrictions and the need to do a test and remain in quarantine:

– those who are vaccinated approved in the EU, USA, UK or WHO vaccine twice, and after the second dose at least two weeks have passed;

– those who have had coronavirus infection in the last six months;

– those who have had covid and were vaccinated with at least one dose of the above drugs, and at least weeks.

“Sputnik” has not yet been approved in any of these instances. Recently, he has faced a series of continuous failures. WHO found irregularities at the plant producing the GamCovidVac vaccine. Germany refused to register Sputnik at the national level and stated that it will adhere to the common European line in this matter. Greece, which promised to let all vaccinated tourists (even Sputnik) into the country, because of the third wave in Russia changed the rules regarding Russians and began to require a negative PCR test and an additional test after entering the country. And the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi admitted that the Sputnik would never be approved in the EU.

The opinion of the head of the Italian government, however, is not shared by everyone. The Russian direct investment fund, which promotes Sputnik in the world, is confident that the vaccine will be approved in Europe by the end of the summer. Epidemiologist Anton Barchuk working at the University of Tampere is also confident in the approval of the Russian vaccine in European structures, but his reasoning is different.

– Europe will most likely issue a license to Sputnik, but not for that the reason that she needs the supply of the drug, but because many citizens and residents of the EU have already been vaccinated with the Russian vaccine and they need to ensure equal rights with others.

The Department of Health and Social Welfare THL is also optimistic about the prospect of approval ” Sputnik ”in the European Union. Head Physician of the Department Hanna Nohinek told Yle News that the European Medicines Agency treats any applications from any country without prejudice, and recalled that the licensing process for Sputnik is still ongoing.

Inject or not inject

So, the question that arose before the residents of Finland and the European Union vaccinated with “Sputnik V” is whether it is worth being re-vaccinated in Europe in order to get a “green certificate” that gives the right to more or less free movement. Now even a vaccination with a Russian drug registered in Omakanta does not allow obtaining a certificate.

So far, there are no official recommendations in this regard. THL commented on this issue as follows:

– Two doses of Sputnik V provide sufficient protection against coronavirus infection, according to peer-reviewed scientific research. There is no evidence yet to what extent additional doses of the vaccine will increase protection against the virus. Now such studies are being carried out in the UK, but, as far as I understand, Sputnik is not among the vaccines being investigated, Hanna Nohinek said.

Anton Barchuk confirms the lack of scientific data on this issue. He says that it does not appear to be medically required additional vaccinations, but that it is safe.

– Assuming that Europe has allowed the possibility of being vaccinated a second time with another drug – in particular, because of the scandals with Astra Zeneca, it can be assumed that they can be combined with Sputnik. It’s another matter whether the new doses of the vaccine will give additional protection – we do not know this yet.

At the same time, the Minister of Health in Russia Mikhail Murashko stated that the vaccinated “Sputnik” should be revaccinated after six months. Considering that in Russia mass vaccination began in January, the first vaccinated people will have this date in the coming months. In the center named after Gamaleya they said that Sputnik and Sputnik Light preparations are suitable for revaccination. In Finland, too, admitted that soon some of the vaccinated will have to be revaccinated.

Ultimately, everyone decides whether to be vaccinated again in Europe or not. Although Alexei Shkvarov is attracted by the opportunity to obtain a document for free movement in Europe, he nevertheless decided not to be vaccinated in Finland either. He says that there is still too much incomprehensible both in terms of tourism and in terms of combining vaccines.

Another decision came Elena Savinova , author of the Telegram channel “About vaccinations without hysterics” .

– I first got used to Sputnik in Russia when I read the news in March that Finland is suspending the use of the Vaxzevria (Astrazeneca / Oxford) vaccine in young people. It was this vaccine that was supposed to be used to vaccinate people my age according to the February-March plans. I decided not to wait for vaccinations in Finland and planned a trip to St. Petersburg a week after this news. Then I came to St. Petersburg again for the second dose of Sputnik. And then Comirnaty (Pfizer / Biontech) and Spikevax (Moderna) began to be used in Finland. I decided to get vaccinated here, too, exclusively for the European vaccination certificate. If “Sputnik” was recognized for the European certificate, then I would not be vaccinated here again.

Elena says the response after the Pfizer-Biontech vaccination was different from the symptoms after Sputnik. The local reaction was more pronounced – the arm hurt more, and the general one, that is, dizziness, mild headache, was less pronounced than from Sputnik. At the same time, according to her, it is impossible to say for sure whether the strength of the reaction is associated with the presence or absence of antibodies.

For Anton Barchuk, the question of re-vaccination in Europe is not yet raised. In May, he was vaccinated in St. Petersburg with two doses of Sputnik, but when he returned to Finland in mid-June, he tested positive for the coronavirus. The disease was very mild – in many ways, according to the epidemiologist, thanks to the vaccine.