Sputnik V: Russia's COVID-19 vaccine goes into production
Despite all the questions over safety and efficacy, Russia is moving ahead with what it claims is the first officially registered vaccine for COVID-19. The country, according to a report from Interfax news agency, has started the production of the shot, named Sputnik V, and will soon begin voluntary vaccinations. Here is all you need to know about it.
Developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Sputnik V is a vaccine that uses a weakened adenovirus, which causes the common cold, and the spike protein gene from the novel coronavirus to induce an antibody-based immune response. It is given in two doses at a gap of 21 days and was cleared for distribution by the Russian Health Ministry on August 11.
On August 11, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Sputnik V, he claimed that the vaccine "forms a stable immunity" and has passed necessary tests. However, medical experts, including AIIMS' Director, have expressed concerns over the safety and efficacy of the shot, as it has been cleared with less than 2 months of human trials and no data regarding its performance has been published.
Notably, Sputnik V has completed only Phase-1/2 of human trials and is moving through Phase-3, which is slated to have 2,000 participants. Typically, vaccines are approved only after they clear all phases and are confirmed to be safe and effective. This is crucial to answer important questions like what the shot does (prevent infection or sickness) and how long the immunity lasts.
As Phase-3 continues, Russia is moving to mass-produce the shot to vaccinate the public simultaneously. Previously, it was reported that shot would be manufactured in September by Gamaleya and Sistema, a big Russian business house. But, if the latest report, which cites a Health Ministry official, is correct, the two organizations might already be manufacturing doses and ramping up their production.
Once sufficient batches are manufactured, possibly by the end of August, the inoculation of high-risk groups such as medical professionals and senior citizens will be started. After that, the country will begin mass immunization drives to vaccinate the general public. This could possibly happen by late-October or perhaps sooner. Putin's daughter has already been inoculated and is said to be feeling well.