Russia to sell 100 million doses of controversial coronavirus vaccine to India

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin said the vaccine offered 'sustainable immunity' against coronavirus. (AP)

Following Russia’s claim to have the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, some 100 million doses are now being sold to India.

In a move that signals Moscow’s speed to up its plans to distribute the controversial vaccine – dubbed Sputnik V – abroad, it has agreed to supply the doses to Indian drug company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.

The deal comes after the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300 million doses of the vaccine in India, which is a major consumer of Russian oil and arms.

Dr Reddy's, one of India's top pharmaceutical companies, will carry out Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine in the country, pending regulatory approval, RDIF said in a statement.

However, the deliveries to India, where coronavirus cases have surged past five million, could begin before the end of this year.

A shot of Russia's experimental Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is shown before its use in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Russian health authorities have launched advanced trials of the vaccine among 40,000 volunteers, a randomized, placebo-controlled study. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr)
A shot of Russia's experimental Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is shown before its use in Moscow, Russia. (AP)

Vaccine scepticism

The Sputnik V vaccine has been met with controversy ever since Russian president Vladimir Putin said that it had been registered for use in August – and that one of his daughters has already been inoculated.

German health minister Jens Spahn said he was sceptical about the claims, warning they could ultimately “kill the acceptance” of vaccination as a weapon against the pandemic.

And last week, scientists from around the world signed an open letter expressing their concern that results of studies suggesting the vaccine was safe were “highly unlikely”.

In the letter, spearheaded by Dr Enrico Bucci from Temple University in Philadelphia, the scientists wrote that “the public’s extreme interest and expectations for an effective vaccine” should “motivate the scientific community to pay even more attention to the evidence”.

Nevertheless, a team of Russian scientists concluded that there were no serious safety concerns out of the 36 volunteers in trials up to 42 days after the vaccine was administered.

Writing in medical journal The Lancet, they added that the immune response was brought about in 40 volunteers within 21 days.

In response, medical experts from universities across the globe published an open letter on Italian site Cattivi Scienziati, accusing the Russian scientists of not providing “numerical data for all the experiments”.

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They added that the research in The Lancet article pointed out “several different points of concern”.

Russia has dismissed the concern over its vaccine claims, describing the criticism as “absolutely groundless”.

Its health minister Mikhail Murashko told the Interfax news agency: "It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that... are absolutely groundless.”

A Russian medical worker adminsters a shot of Russia's experimental Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Russian health authorities have launched advanced trials of the vaccine among 40,000 volunteers, a randomized, placebo-controlled study. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr)
A Russian medical worker adminsters a shot of Russia's experimental Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, Russia. (AP)

UK vaccine progress

A potential vaccine developed in the UK could be ready as early as this year, after promising results were shown in the initial trials.

The UK government has signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur to secure 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain's Oxford University, showing microbiologist Elisa Granato, being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK for a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University, England, Thursday April 23, 2020.  The first vaccine trial for COVID-19 Coronavirus have begun Thursday. (Oxford University Pool via AP)
Microbiologist Elisa Granato being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK for a potential coronavirus vaccine, undertaken by Oxford University. (AP)

A further agreement has been signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for their jab, which could produce 100 million doses for the UK.

However, a recent poll found that only half of Britons would get a coronavirus vaccine if one was developed.

The Ipsos Mori survey of 2,237 adults found that 53% would be certain or very likely to take the vaccine, while one in six said they would definitely not get a vaccine, or it would be very unlikely.

A visitor wearing a face mask takes a photo of a model of a coronavirus and boxes for COVID-19 vaccines at a display by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic largely under control, China's capital on Saturday kicked off one of the first large-scale public events since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, as tens of thousands of attendees were expected to visit displays from nearly 2,000 Chinese and foreign companies showcasing their products and services. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A visitor wearing a face mask takes a photo of a model of a coronavirus and boxes for COVID-19 vaccines at a display by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at the China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing. (AP)

China concerns

Meanwhile, China is inoculating tens of thousands of its citizens with experimental coronavirus vaccines, despite concerns among experts over the safety of drugs that have not completed standard testing.

China's approach goes against that of many Western countries, where experts have warned against authorising the emergency use of vaccines that have not completed testing, over concerns of potential side effects.

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