Russian spies stole the formula for the vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) AstraZeneca developed with Oxford University researchers and used it to create its own Sputnik V jab, The Sun has reported. The British tabloid cited security services as saying that they have proof one of the Russian spies swiped the vital data from the drugs firm—including the blueprint for the Covid-19 vaccine—and used it to create Sputnik V. It also reported that the blueprint and vital information was stolen by a foreign agent in person. Russia’s Sputnik V jab uses similar technology to the Oxford designed vaccine, which is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and being used in the vaccination drive by the Centre.
The United Kingdom’s security minister Damian Hinds did not confirm the report but said cyber attacks were becoming more sophisticated. Hinds was asked on LBC Radio about the claim in The Sun that British security chiefs believe Russia stole the formula for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. “I can’t comment specifically but it’s fair for your listeners to assume that constantly there are foreign states who would like to get their hands on sensitive information, including sometimes commercial secrets, sometimes scientific, intellectual property, constantly trying to get hold of it and in the cyberspace that is done in a very different way from how things use to happen and we need to be exceptionally vigilant towards it.” “We live in aworld, I am afraid, where there is state activity seeking to engage in industrial espionage and economic espionage, there are cyber attacks that happen and so on.”
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The Sun also said in its report that last year spies pointed the finger at President Vladimir Putin and said they were “more than 95 per cent” sure that Russian state-sponsored hackers targeted the UK, the US and Canadian bodies developing a Covid-19 vaccine. “We are very careful in terms of calling these things out, ensuring we can have that confidence in attribution. We believe we have this here,” the late security minister James Brokenshire said at the time, according to the Sun.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was about to restart the process of approving Sputnik V following a series of problems with the dossier. Mariangela Simao, the WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, said “the process was put on hold due to the lack of some legal procedures” for Sputnik V. “In negotiations with the Russian government, this problem is about to be sorted out. As soon as the legal procedures are finished, we are able to restart the process,” she told a press conference on Thursday.
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WHO authorisation has been sought for the Sputnik V jab created by Russia’s Gamaleya research institute, which is already being used in 45 countries, according to an AFP count. Sputnik V is already being used in several countries, including India, Algeria, Argentina, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
(With AFP inputs)