In good news for India, which has set an ambitious deadline of the end of the year to inoculate its adult population, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) on Tuesday said Russian vaccine Sputnik V will be produced at the manufacturing units of Pune-based Serum Institute of India from September.
“As part of the technical transfer process, SII has already received cell and vector samples from the Gamaleya Center. With their import approved by the Drug Controller General of India), the cultivation process has begun," read a statement from RDIF.
Reacting to the announcement, Serum Institute chief Adar Poonawalla said he was “delighted to partner with RDIF to manufacture the Sputnik vaccine”. “We hope to make millions of doses in the coming months with trial batches starting in the month of September,” he said.
Poonawalla added: “With high efficacy and a good safety profile, it is critical that the Sputnik vaccine is accessible in full measure for people across India and the world. Given the uncertainty of the virus, it is important for international institutes, and governments to collaborate and further bolster up our fight against the pandemic.”
Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, commented: “RDIF is delighted to cooperate with Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. This strategic partnership is a major step to substantially increase our production capabilities demonstrating a perfect example of joining forces and expertise to save lives both in India and around the world. With technology transfer underway we expect the first batches of the vaccine to be produced jointly with SII in coming months."
Sputnik V has a number of key advantages: Efficacy of Sputnik V is 97.6% based on the analysis of data on the coronavirus infection rate among those in Russia vaccinated with both components of Sputnik V from December 5, 2020 to March 31, 2021; The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years.
Sputnik V has pioneered the use of heterogeneous boosting (two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination among COVID vaccines). This approach provides for immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots.
Sputnik, the indigenously produced Covid vaccine in Russia will soon become the third Covid vaccine to be made available for free at government-run vaccination sites in the country, Dr N K Arora, chairperson of the Centre’s Covid-19 working group had said earlier.
Sputnik is currently available only in the private sector but depending upon its supply it will soon be offered a free vaccination programme, the doctor added.
The first foreign-made Covid vaccine to be introduced in India was soft-launched in Hyderabad in the month of May at a maximum retail price of Rs 995.40 per dose, inclusive of GST.
Sputnik V requires a storage temperature of -18°C, Arora said adding that cold chain facilities preserving polio vaccines would be used to store Sputnik V, a plan that will also ensure it reaches the country’s rural areas.
Besides scaling up the production of Covaxin and Covishield, the addition of Sputnik V and the impending rollout of Moderna and Zydus Cadila’s new shot is expected to boost daily coverage from 50 lakh a day to 80 lakh and even 1 crore in the coming weeks.