2.79 mn Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine to reach India tonight, 5 mn more in June

The first large consignment of millions of doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine is set to reach India on Monday. The developers of the jab are expected to supply a total of 18 million doses over the next two months.

The Russian side has supplied 210,000 doses in two batches to India and the remainder of the total of three million doses expected in May is set to reach the country late on Monday, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

A majority of these three million doses are being provided in bulk and will be “filled and finished” in India. This will be followed by bulk exports of five million doses in June and another 10 million doses in July, the people said.

Sputnik V, which gives 91.4% protection against Covid-19, became the third Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine to be granted emergency use authorisation by India in April. The vaccine’s Russian developers have tied up with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories for the distribution of doses in India. They have signed agreements with several firms to manufacture up to 850 million doses a year.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) or Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and Panacea Biotec recently announced that full-scale production of the vaccine in India following the transfer of technology will start this summer. The people cited above said the two sides are looking at beginning the production in India by August.

The first batch of vaccines produced at Panacea Biotec’s facilities at Baddi in Himachal Pradesh will be shipped to Gamaleya Center in Russia for quality control checks before full-scale production starts.

India’s envoy to Russia, DB Venkatesh Varma, said recently that almost 70% of all doses of Sputnik V produced around the world will be made in India. The Russian side has also sought regulatory approvals for Sputnik Light, a single dose variant of the vaccine, though all the procedures are yet to be completed.

Sputnik Light has shown 79.4% efficacy, according to data gathered after the single shot was administered as part of Russia’s mass vaccination programme between December 2020 and April 2021.

However, plans drawn up by the Russian developers of the vaccine to export a majority of the vaccines manufactured in India are expected to be shelved because of the huge demand within the country following a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections and a severe shortage of jabs, the people cited above said.

With India temporarily halting all vaccine exports last month to speed up the domestic immunisation drive, further supplies of doses to other countries are unlikely to resume till the end of the year, the people said.

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