More than three million doses of the Russian vaccine will be available by this month.
More than 18 million doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik-V will be available for Indians by August, while Indian partners are expected to produce about 850 million doses of the vaccine by March 2022. In addition, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) also hopes to cooperate in the production of a single-dose “Sputnik Light” in India once domestic permissions come through, said India’s Ambassador to Moscow.
“Finally, more than 65-70% of Sputnik vaccines used anywhere in the world will be from India,” said DB Venkatesh Verma, Indian Ambassador in Russia, speaking to journalists in St Petersburg on Saturday, where he described a “three-phase process” for production and distribution of Russian-developed vaccines in India, including ready-to-use direct exports, followed by bulk exports or what are called “fill and finish mode” and then a “transfer-of technology” so Indian companies, most notably Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories can produce the vaccine in India.
“The Russian side has also proposed Sputnik Light for which the regulatory approvals are not completed. But once they are, they will be one more area of cooperation,” Mr. Verma added, referring to the less effective, but easier to produce version of the Sputnik-V developed by the Gemalaya Lab in Russia, which could be used in conjunction with the other vaccines to try and deliver some measure of protection for a larger population.
According to the Indian Ambassador, Russia has already shipped 2,10,000 Sputnik vaccines of a total of 3 million due to arrive in the month of May, followed by 5 million in June and 10 million in July. In August, RDIF is expected to transfer technology to India to start the manufacture here.
Sputnik light under consideration
In addition, the government has already begun the process of vetting the Sputnik Light vaccine for clearances, and sources said a high-level meeting last week had taken a “positive view” of the single-dose vaccine, which has been shortlisted for further review. In Russian clinical trials, the Light version reportedly showed an “79.4%” efficacy as opposed to the Sputnik-V two-dose vaccine that claimed a “91.4%” efficacy, RDIF statements said.
Production of the Russian vaccine, which is the third vaccine to receive regulatory approval in India, is expected to boost the government’s efforts to substantially vaccinate Indians by the end of 2021. The effort is lagging at present due to a major shortage of vaccines that has meant that administration rates have halved since April, and vaccine centres in several big cities face closures unless ready to use doses are made available for all age groups above 18 years, that have been made eligible for the vaccine.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to the U.S. this week is also geared towards procuring as many ready to use doses of American vaccines at the earliest. However, as none of the three U.S.-approved vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson has yet received regulatory approvals in India, these will take longer to distribute in India.
In addition, while the U.S. is expected to make at least a million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine stockpile available to India, it will only ship them after they have received US-FDA clearances, which has not yet cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine. Apart from the timelines, the Sputnik vaccines will also be available more easily as they require near-room temperatures for storage, and don’t require elaborate cold-chain facilities, officials said.