Sputnik V vaccine runs up vs. Western doubts, production problems

By Bernardo Suarez Indart

Moscow, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- Russia was the first country to announce that it had developed a vaccine against Covid-19, Sputnik V, but it has not been able to make it profitable due to Western hesitancy to use it and problems with mass producing it.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov acknowledged on Monday that world demand for Sputnik V is “without exaggeration, enormous and significantly exceeds the supply guaranteed by (Russia’s) industrial capabilities.”

This situation, he added, is forcing the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the vaccine abroad, to “work night and day.”

Russia’s sovereign fund did not respond to questions from EFE about the number of contracts signed to deliver Sputnik V or the number of doses exported so far although some 50 countries have authorized its use.

Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is updated daily on the vaccine supply situation, starting from the standpoint that the “indisputable priority is vaccinating Russians.”

The spokesman also said that “unfortunately” there has been a certain amount of politicization surrounding the Russian anti-Covid vaccine in the West.

“We hear many statements, including from European countries, statements that are not very accurate,” he said.

He noted that Putin, “from the start has come out against the politicization of the vaccine issue and having it become an instrument of unscrupulous and trouble-making politicians.”

Given the lack of production capacity in Russia, the RDIF has signed contracts with about a dozen pharmaceutical firms in Brazil, China, Iran, Italy, Serbia, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Belarus to produce about 1.4 billion doses of Sputnik V in those countries.

Regarding the European Union, where Russia also hopes to be able to market its vaccine once it obtains the approval of the European Medicines Agency, the RDIF said Monday that it had “already achieved agreements with companies in Italy, Spain, France and Germany to launch production of Sputnik V.”

The spokesman added that there is a large amount of data regarding the two-dose vaccine’s use, adding that governments “make the decision to use it on the basis of clear scientific factors.”

The developer of the vaccine, the Gamaleya Center, says that the drug is safe and that after the two doses are administered it is 91.6 percent effective in preventing serious Covid-19 cases, many of which would otherwise result in lengthy hospital stays and/or death.

The fund reported Monday that 3.5 million Russians have received both Sputnik V doses, allegedly making it the “leader in Europe” in terms of the number of people who have completed the immunization series for any of the several existing vaccines.

It is not known whether or not Putin himself has received his shots yet, given that months ago he announced that he would get immunized later on, although the Kremlin has not addressed the matter, noting that getting vaccinated in Russia is voluntary.

Currently, Russia has three available anti-Covid vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac – and its scientists have begun clinical studies for the one-dose Sputnik Light, which has an estimated efficacy rate of 85 percent.

Moscow’s plans are to produce 88 million doses of the various vaccines during the first half of 2021, with 83 million of them being Sputnik V.

Russia is the No. 4 country for confirmed coronavirus cases with 4.4 million and its official Covid-19 death toll stands at 92,494.

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