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Russian media claim British newspaper has denied Russian spies swiped AstraZeneca's blueprints. But that's not what the denial is about

The Kremlin media outlets reported in unison that the British Daily Express apologized for reporting that Russian spies stole Oxford University's and AstraZeneca's blueprints and used them to create the Sputnik V vaccine. This is what it sounds like on Channel One's morning newscast:

«Britain's Daily Express newspaper has apologized for an article which said that Russia's Sputnik V team had allegedly used blueprints swiped from the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca to build its vaccine. True, the tabloid placed the retraction below the headline, leaving it pretty much the same. Most importantly, though, it did admit the information about the alleged theft of the drug's formula was false. The Daily Express quotes a statement from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which says, among other things: «The developers of Sputnik V have been successfully using the very platform on which the drug is based for many years. For example, this approach was used to develop a vaccine against Ebola. It also highlights the obvious difference: AstraZeneca worked with a chimpanzee adenovirus-based vector. A human-based vector was used to create Sputnik.»
The title says: Britain's Daily Express newspaper has apologized for an article which said that Russia's Sputnik V team had allegedly used blueprints swiped from AstraZeneca to build its vaccine
The title says: Britain's Daily Express newspaper has apologized for an article which said that Russia's Sputnik V team had allegedly used blueprints swiped from AstraZeneca to build its vaccine

The Daily Express did publish piece titled «Correction: Russia copied AstraZeneca vaccine to create Sputnik jab after swiping data». It says:

An article published on October 11, 2021, falsely implied that «Russia had reportedly copied the formula of the AstraZeneca jab and used it to help make its own vaccine, according to new reports». However, it has come to our attention that this was false as the information about inventor of the Sputnik V vaccine – Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology) – is publicly known.
The article also contained false information. As an apology, we are happy to set the record straight and publish the following statement from the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
“Sputnik V is based on a well-studied human adenoviral platform whose efficacy and safety have been proven over decades. Developers of Sputnik V, the Gamaleya Center, used the same human adenoviral platform for their earlier groundbreaking research over the years, including vaccines against Ebola in 2017 and MERS in 2019, to quickly develop Russia’s vaccine against COVID-19.
“In contrast, AstraZeneca uses chimpanzee adenoviral vector for its vaccine rather than the human vector used by Sputnik V.
“In addition, the Russian vaccine is unique among all vaccines against Covid in using heterogenous boosting (two different vectors, Ad26 and Ad5, for the two shots to achieve stronger and longer-lasting immunity) or mix-and-match combo approach, while AstraZeneca uses one and the same vector twice.
“Unlike for some other vaccines in use today, Sputnik V has excellent safety profile with very few serious adverse events reported vs other vaccines and no cases of myocarditis or cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT). “It is also important to note that the Sputnik V team and AstraZeneca are conducting joint clinical trials in partnership on the combo use of the two vaccines and have released information on safety and efficacy. That offer was extended to AstraZeneca last November to help it boost its efficacy and launched the world’s first mix-and-match trials of anti-Covid vaccines. “Rather than spreading fake stories, the UK media and Government services should better protect the reputation of AstraZeneca, a safe and efficient vaccine that is constantly attacked by competitors in the media with facts taken out of context.»

At the same time, the Russian media do not pay attention to the fact that the note with the refutation and the RDIF statement was initially published on October 12 at 11:23 British summertime, and last amended at 15:03 with another material, which said:

«UK security services now have proof that a [Russian] spy stole the drug firm's blueprints along with other vital data. Russia was first accused of activities against the UK, the US and Canada last year. Home Secretary Damien Hinds said yesterday that «state activities» were linked to «industrial espionage».
«A spokesman for the prime minister declined to comment on specific claims that intelligence sources have proof Russian spies stole the coronavirus immunization blueprints from Oxford. He added: «I've seen the reports. But, as you might expect, I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters».

Thus, when publishing its retraction, the Daily Express did not refute at all the allegation that Russian spies had stolen the Oxford University's and AstraZeneca's blueprints. On the contrary, after the publication of the rebuttal, the newspaper confirmed the theft. It corrected the erroneous statement that the stolen materials were used in the creation of Sputnik V. However, all this still does not mean that the materials obtained by the spies were not used by the creators of the Russian vaccine: The RDIF's explanations only refer to the adenovirus platform, which has indeed been used by the Gamaleya Centre for years and is fundamentally different from the one used by AstraZeneca. The question of whether the stolen British-Swedish blueprints helped adapt this platform to the specific task of fighting the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been considered, but either way, this information is unverified.

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