By Kester Kenn Klomegah*
MOSCOW (IDN) — President Vladimir Putin has praised the entire healthcare system, and particularly the hard-working team of scientists and specialists from different institutions for their efforts at research and creating a series of vaccines for use against the coronavirus both at home and abroad. Three vaccines already registered in Russia, two of them—Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona—are produced in large quantities by Russian pharmaceutical companies and are currently used for vaccination. It is planned to roll out another one: CoviVac.
Despite the pandemic-related challenges, the domestic pharmaceutical companies, in conjunction with research institutes, have managed to accomplish a multitude of objectives in order to deploy new vaccine production sites in a short amount of time, Putin said during a videoconference meeting focused on increasing the manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and the progress of vaccination in Russia.
Putin further noted that the implementation of a wide range of preventive measures, including widespread vaccination, has played a significant role in normalising the epidemic situation. Overall, 6.3 million Russians have taken the first part of the vaccine, of these 4.3 million have been vaccinated in full, that is, they have received both vaccine components.
“We can safely say, and the practical results indisputably corroborate, the fact that the Russian vaccines are absolutely safe and dependable. Our success is recognised abroad as well. The number of countries using the Sputnik V vaccine is expanding fast, more countries around the world are showing interest in our vaccine with 55 countries having authorised its use,” he told the meeting.
In addition, Russia now has a number of contracts with foreign manufacturers—these are foreign manufacturers who will be producing our vaccine on their territory—have been signed for the number of doses needed to vaccinate 700 million people per year. Of late, it has signed a contract with an Indian company for doses to vaccinate 100 million people. Indisputably, working with 55 countries means a total population of 1.4 billion. There are plans to expand the number of partner countries and that will reach estimated 2.5 billion people.
While Russia and its pharmaceutical companies are considering the dynamics of the global market and the demand for Russian-made vaccines, and expanding their production capacities, they are also emphasis on domestic needs, supplying and vaccinating Russian citizens with vaccines. This is an absolute priority. It is estimated that at least 60 per cent of all adults in the country must be vaccinated for complete stabilisation. This requires 69.8 million sets of vaccine doses. At any rate, there are more than 20 million Sputnik V doses, according to Russian president, quoting his Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
In his contribution at the meeting, Minister of Industry Denis Manturov informed that under the plan, 12.5 million sets of the vaccine must be produced in March. The planned figure for April is 17 million. It is planned to continue building up production so as to have over 80 millions of two-component doses by the first six months.
According to him, all these amounts will be primarily used to vaccinate Russian citizens. In order to meet the global demand for Russian vaccines, his ministry is working on scaling up production of vaccines and on transferring technology abroad. It already has comprehensive agreements on this with manufacturers in 10 countries.
Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko informed the meeting about organisations that keep monitoring the virus’s mutations, including those in Russia. “We are analysing the efficiency of medicines for preventing the disease caused by various strains. This work is ongoing continuously and involves several agencies,” he said, and further mentioned the need to increase the speed of vaccination.
Participating in the meeting, Pharmstandard Chairman of the Board Viktor Kharitonin also discussed production capability of the vaccine and pointed to the successful completion of the transfer of laboratory technology, scaled and fine-tuned the manufacturing technology abroad.
“It should be specifically pointed out that, thanks to our cooperation with the Russian Direct Investment Fund, we have started supplying the vaccine to foreign markets. We have already transferred the production technology to Kazakhstan and Belarus and continue working with other countries, including India and Italy. In Italy, Sputnik V was highly praised by both scientists and our colleagues from pharmaceutical companies,” added Kharitonin.
Taking his turn, Chairman of the Board of the R-Pharm Group Alexei Repik talked about efforts that are currently focused on the creation and manufacturing of new forms of the vaccine that will be easier to use and also to transport. He noted that it will increase the attractiveness of the vaccines on foreign markets, including countries with a hot climate: the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
Director of the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology Alexander Gintsburg also highlighted a few aspects of the vaccine production and about documents for registration. According to him, the Gamaleya Research Centre also addresses the problem of expanding the production of the Sputnik Light vaccine.
In addition, as the holder of the registration certificate, the Centre assumes all responsibility for quality control of this vaccine at all enterprises where it is manufactured in this country and abroad.
Moreover, the Centre is directly involved in launching contractual production that is mostly organised by the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The Centre has prepared the entire package of documents for registering the Sputnik Light vaccine in 55 countries. Considering that each country has its own regulatory system, this is not a fixed package of documents that will apply everywhere, therefore it has to adapt it to every country’s regulatory system.
He further spoke about The Lancet, a highly prestigious and popular medical journal, that published two articles on the results of scientific data and clinical trials. This provides important scientific evidence proving the vaccine’s efficacy, this has completely eliminated the Western academic community’ scepticism regarding the vaccines’ quality and efficacy. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 March 2021]
* Kester Kenn Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to IDN. During his professional career as a researcher specialising in Russia-Africa policy, which spans nearly two decades, he has been detained and questioned several times by federal security services for reporting facts. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted in a number of reputable foreign media.
Photo: The “Sputnik V” vaccine. CC BY 4.0
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