New Delhi: The Russian government has reached out to the Indian dispensation, seeking a collaboration on the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, and also expressed its willingness to share data, ThePrint has learnt.
This comes even as the Indian embassy in Moscow is engaging with the Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which has developed the vaccine, to get safety and efficacy data on the vaccine trials.
Sources in the government told ThePrint Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev has formally reached the office of the principal scientific advisor to the Government of India professor K. VijayRaghavan, secretary DBT (Department of Biotechnology), Ranu Swarup and secretary, department of health research, Dr Balram Bhargava, who is also the director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research.
“The Russian ambassador in India is engaging with the offices of the principal scientific advisor and the secretaries of the department of health research and department of biotechnology. The Russian government is keen to collaborate with India on the vaccine. They have also actively shared a lot of information and data on Sputnik V but most of the safety and efficacy data that we are looking for, is yet to be shared,” a health ministry official said.
“Our embassy in Moscow is also trying to get the data and are in touch with the Gamaleya institute,” he added.
However, there is no application yet for holding trials in India and the central government, although open to the idea, is treading cautiously until crucial data is available.
“Somebody has to apply for holding a trial in India whether the institute does it or some other company. That has not happened,” the official added.
Sputnik V is an adenovirus vector-based vaccine that was registered by the Russian Ministry of Health on 11 August. It is the world’s first registered Covid-19 vaccine but the data for the vaccine is yet to be shared with other countries or the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO landscape document for Covid vaccines still lists the Gamaleya candidate as one that is in Phase I trial, while in Russia, preparations are on for large-scale production and administration of the vaccine.
President Vladimir Putin’s daughter was one of the first recipients of the vaccine even as the lack of data has led to global cynicism.
Among the cynics is Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Centre for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was quoted as saying: “I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective. I seriously doubt that they’ve done that.”
What Sputnik V website says
The publicly available clinical trial information so far on Sputnik V is on its website.
“Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of the vaccine have been completed on August 1, 2020. All the volunteers are feeling well, no unforeseen or unwanted side-effects were observed. The vaccine induced strong antibody and cellular immune response. Not a single participant of the current clinical trials got infected with Covid-19 after being administered with the vaccine.
“The high efficacy of the vaccine was confirmed by high precision tests for antibodies in the blood serum of volunteers (including an analysis for antibodies that neutralise the coronavirus) as well as the ability of the immune cells of the volunteers to activate in response to the spike S protein of the coronavirus, which indicates the formation of both antibody and cellular immune vaccine response,” it said.
“Post-registration clinical trials involving more than 40,000 people in Russia will be launched in a week starting from August 24. A number of countries, such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Philippines and possibly India or Brazil will join the clinical trials of Sputnik V locally.”
The plan is to ramp up the vaccine production to 200 million doses by the end of 2020, including 30 million doses in Russia.
The website also claims that “at least 20 countries had expressed interest in obtaining Sputnik V, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and India”.