Russia has launched the one-shot Sputnik-Lite anti-coronavirus vaccine on May 6 that it claims has a 79.4% efficacy, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a press release.
The vaccine will be largely sent to other countries that are suffering from the pandemic and are undersupplied by vaccines.
The questions as to Sputnik V’s safety and efficacy were laid to rest by a peer-reviewed report in leading British medical journal The Lancet in February that confirmed the Russian drug was safe and had an efficacy rate of over 91% .
The Russian Direct Investment Fund said Sputnik-Lite, a slimmed-down vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Research Institute, costs less than $10 a dose – about half the cost of the western alternatives. RDIF said the shot is compatible with standard vaccine storage and logistics requirements, adding that the vaccine allows countries to immunise large numbers of people in a short amount of time and is particularly suited to dealing with the emergencies currently unfolding in countries like Brazil and India.
The international distribution of Sputnik V has become highly politicised. The US in particular is worried by the soft power wins that Russia has been scoring from making its vaccine widely available to developing countries that cannot source western-made vaccines.
A report by the US medical authorities admitted that the US State Department had pressured Brazil into refusing the desperately needed Sputnik V vaccine because it was from a “malign state,” the Brazilian press reported.
Brazil is in the midst of the worse epidemic in South America and over 400,000 people have died. Nevertheless, the medical authorities there failed to certify Sputnik V, despite admitting it was “safe,” as the RDIF had not submitted enough data to the regulator. Despite the US State Department’s successful efforts to block Sputnik V delivery to Brazil, the US did not offer to share any vaccines from its own stockpile, even though the immunisation programme is well advanced and the US reportedly has enough vaccine to inoculate its entire population twice over.
Several other countries in South America, including Russian ally Venezuela, have accepted supplies of Sputnik V and are rolling out mass immunisation programmes.
Based on its flagship Sputnik V, the RDIF said late-stage Phase III trials involving 7,000 people were underway in Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Ghana, among other countries for Sputnik-Lite. Interim results were expected later this month. Phase I and Phase II results found the shot demonstrated safety for all subjects and no serious adverse events were registered, according to the RDIF.
“The single dose regimen solves the challenge of immunising large groups in a shorter time, which is especially important during the acute phase of the spread of coronavirus, achieving herd immunity faster,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of RDIF, said in a statement.
“The Sputnik-Lite vaccine will be exported to our international partners to help increase the rate of vaccinations in a number of countries in the face of the ongoing fight with the pandemic and new strains of coronavirus,” Dmitriev added.