'Technical Challenge' Preventing Sputnik V From Taking Off in India, Says COVID Task Force Chief
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said this week that Sputnik V is likely to get Emergency Use Listing (EUL) status by the end of this year. So far, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and AstraZeneca (both variants) have been given the emergency us status by WHO.
The head of India's federal Task Force for COVID-19
Response Dr Vinod Kumar Paul has blamed the low receptivity of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in the Indian market on the ongoing research into the effectiveness of the first dose.
"There's no problem as far as the single component (first dose) of the Sputnik V is concerned. But there is still some research going around the second component. Not only in India, but several other countries are also facing the same technical issue," Dr Paul told Sputnik.
“Once the issue is resolved, we expect Sputnik V to be distributed in the country as other vaccine candidates,” he added.
The eminent Indian scientist also chairs the Empowered Group on Medical Infrastructure and Covid Management Plan as well as the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC). On top of this, he's a member of the NITI Aayog think tank, which is linked to the Indian government.
Sputnik V, which has demonstrated over 91.6 percent efficacy, has so far been approved in 70 countries across the world. The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
In India, the Russian vaccine was undergoing clinical trials between September last year and this March, and was finally approved for usage by New Delhi in April. It was the third COVID jab to be rolled out in India.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is marketing Sputnik V internationally, has entered into a partnership with Indian pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s
to distribute the jab in India.
Dr Paul said that only a million doses of Sputnik V had been administered in India since May, when the first batch of the Russian vaccine was flown into the country.
To date, India has administered the first dose to 689 million people, or almost 74 percent of the overall population. Nearly 275 million individuals, or 29.3 percent of the people, have been given both doses, Dr Paul explains.
He said that nearly 90 percent of vaccinated Indians had received a dose of Covishield, while just around 9 percent had been inoculated with Covaxin, a domestic jab developed made by Bharat Biotech.
The Indian scientist expressed confidence that Sputnik Light, a single-dose vaccine, would be rolled out in the South Asian country on a much larger scale. Sputnik Light has also been developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
“We are expecting Sputnik Light to be among the vaccines that will be available for export on mass scale December onwards,” said Dr Paul. He also expressed high hopes in India’s capabilities to distribute upcoming vaccine candidates such as Corbevax (being developed by India-based company Biological E) globally.
Dr Reddy’s Says Sputnik V Can't Compete With India’s Free Vaccine Programme
The remarks by Dr Paul come days after Dr Reddy’s said that Sputnik V’s popularity
in the Indian market has been affected due to the federal vaccination programme. Sputnik V, on the other hand, is being distributed through a private company and its cost is being borne by the customer.
“In terms of the market situation, the private market overall has seen a sharp dip and Sputnik V has been solely private. The market has seen scale-up in overall vaccine production in India and free distribution through the government," Dr Reddy's said in a statement.
Dr Paul said that over 90 percent of Indians had been vaccinated for free with either Covishield or Covaxin.