On Monday, India added a third COVID-19 vaccine to it's growing arsenal, with the Centre green-signaling Russia's Sputnik V. Touted as the world's first COVID-19 jab, it is also one of only three vaccines that have recorded an efficacy of more than 90%. And within a month or two, you could find yourself taking a dose in India.
The comparatively high storage temperature of the vaccine also makes it far more accessible to India. As a press note on the vaccine's website notes, Sputnik V can be stored in a conventional refrigerator without any need to invest in additional cold-chain infrastructure.
The Russian vaccine reportedly works in a similar manner to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab and the Janssen vaccine. Indeed, trials had been conducted to test a combination of the Sputnik and AstraZeneca vaccines. The manufacturers insist that the vaccine provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19 and that there are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V.
But when exactly will this vaccine come to India? While earlier reports had quoted top government sources to say that the Russian vaccine would be available by June at the latest, the timeline appears to be moving up. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Kirill Dmitriev the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) told the publication that roll out could begin at the end of April. However, this does not mean that there will be an abundance of doses available in India from the end of this month. Elaborating on the vaccine roll out plan, Dmitriev told NDTV that while they believed vaccines would become available by end April or beginning May, it would take a "couple of months" to amp up production. "So, we believe by June, we will really be at good production capacity in India and will become a very meaningful player in vaccination programme in India," he explained.
As per reports, the vaccine will be manufactured by five pharma companies in the country, with around 850 million doses being produced annually. While the RDIF and Panacea Biotec collaborate to produce 100 million doses a year, the remainder will be produced by Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Stelis Biopharma and Virchow Biotech.
"Sputnik V is indicated for active immunization in individuals ≥ 18 years of age and must be administered intramuscularly in 2 doses of 0.5 ml each with interval of 21 days. Has to be stored at -18°C and comprises two components I and II that aren't interchangeable," the Union Health Ministry noted after approval was granted.