India becomes 60th country to authorize use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

File labelled “Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine”, March 24, 2021.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

India has granted emergency use authorization for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, shortly after overtaking Brazil to become the world’s second-most affected country by the coronavirus.

The move, announced Tuesday by the Drug Controller General of India, makes India the 60th and most populous country to adopt the shot. Sputnik V is now approved for use across a total population of 3 billion people, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. 

“Approval of the vaccine is a major milestone as Russia and India have been developing an extensive cooperation on clinical trials of Sputnik V in India and its local production,” RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement. The deal includes partnerships between RDIF and some of India’s pharmaceutical companies to produce “over 850 million doses” of Sputnik V in India annually, meaning enough of the two-shot vaccine for 425 million people, Dmitriev said. 

India on Tuesday reported more than 161,736 new Covid cases — the eighth straight day that more than 100,000 infections were registered. The country of 1.3 billion has now had more than 13.87 million total confirmed cases and over 172,000 deaths. Sputnik V joins two other vaccines to become the third authorized for use in India. 

At less than $10 a shot, the relatively low-cost vaccine touted by Russia’s leadership has rapidly gained approval in developing countries as many regions experience second and third waves of the virus. Among the countries that have approved it for use are Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Hungary, the UAE, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq,  Myanmar, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of the Congo, Vietnam and the Philippines. Russia’s health authorities declared its efficacy rate at 91.6%. 

People wait to board passenger buses during rush hour at a bus terminal amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India, April 5, 2021.

Niharika Kulkarni | Reuters

The shot, developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, has been criticized by many in the Western scientific community for what they saw as rushed development and a lack of transparency. A month before the launch of Sputnik’s efficacy trial last September, Russian authorities made the highly controversial move of approving the vaccination for people outside of a clinical trial, which the Gamaleya Center said was used for health workers and high-risk groups.  

But the highly-reputed medical journal The Lancet in February reported the Russian jab’s high efficacy rate in late stage clinical trials, writing that Sputnik V’s “vaccine efficacy, based on the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases from 21 days after the first dose of vaccine, is reported as 91.6%, and the suggested lessening of disease severity after one dose is particularly encouraging for current dose-sparing strategies.” 

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he had received his second dose of a coronavirus vaccine. He has declined to say which one it was.


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