Russia's Deputy Ambassador to India Roman Babushkin on Wednesday cautioned that Moscow was against attempts to "politicise" bilateral vaccine cooperation between the two countries, as he addressed a question about the delayed approval of the Sputnik V vaccine, despite its efficacy rate of 91.6 percent.
"We adhere to WHO guidelines, which advise against the politicisation of vaccine cooperation. We anticipate the quick approval and quick rollout of the Sputnik V vaccine in India," said Babushkin, responding to a question from Sputnik during a press briefing on the outcomes of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to India last week.
“Vaccine cooperation between Russia and India could help all humanity in fighting the COVID pandemic,” Russia’s Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev, who was also fielding questions during the briefing, said.
Ambassador Kudashev pointed out that vaccine cooperation had featured prominently in bilateral discussions between Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar last week.
On Monday, India’s federal regulator, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), approved the use of the Sputnik V vaccine for “restricted emergency use” in India after a nod from an expert committee.
While the price of Sputnik V jab, once it is introduced in the Indian market, is still being negotiated, India's first batch of the Sputnik V vaccine is slated to be imported by May.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is tasked with the international commercialising of Sputnik V, entered into an agreement with Indian pharmaceutical giant Dr Reddy’s in September last year for conducting clinical trials of the vaccine.
“In other markets, Sputnik is more expensive than AstraZeneca's vaccine and I'm not sure that we can get exactly to that pricing, given our production process,'' Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of RDIF, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in an interview, when asked about the ongoing negotiations on the mass rollout of the Russian vaccine.
The RDIF has also entered into partnership with five other Indian companies, Panacea Biotec, Hetero Biopharma, Virchow Biotech, Gland Pharma and Stelis Biopharma, to produce up to 850 million doses of Sputnik V in India in the coming months.
The Russian vaccine is the third to be approved in the South Asian country, which recorded more than 184,000 new daily infections on Wednesday, as per India's federal health ministry.
During the ongoing second COVID wave in the country, an average of 100,000 new cases are being recorded daily for the better part of the week, Making India the second worst-hit country during the ongoing pandemic. Having recorded more than 130 million cases so far, India this week overtook Brazil in terms of infections. Only the US now has more COVID cases than India.
India to ‘Fast Track’ Approval for Other Vaccines
A day after granting emergency approval to Sputnik V, India’s federal health Ministry said on Tuesday that it had decided to “fast track” approval for other vaccine candidates that were in use in the US, Japan, European Union and Great Britain, albeit with certain conditions.
“We hope and we invite vaccine makers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and others...To be ready to come to India as early as possible." Dr V.K. Paul, a member of the federal government think tank Niti Aayog, said during the Indian Health Ministry’s daily press briefing on Tuesday.
He informed the media that the first 100 people receiving doses of these vaccines will be monitored before the authorities roll them out to the masses.
The waiver of extensive clinical trials for these vaccine candidates will “facilitate” wider availability of these vaccines, he said.
“They will be given emergency use approval mandating the requirement of post-approval parallel bridging clinical trial in place of a local clinical trial under the provisions of the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019,” India’s health ministry spokesperson also said on Tuesday.