Russia is starting to overcome production bottlenecks of its Sputnik V coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine as output capacity tops 30mn doses a month, the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov told reporters at the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on June 3.
"Russian enterprises can now produce about 30mn doses of Sputnik V vaccine per month," he said. According to the minister, enterprises are ready to cover Russia’s needs for mass vaccination.
To date, the Sputnik V vaccine has been registered in 66 countries with a total population of over 3.2bn people. However, the lack of facilities have meant Russia has only been able to meet about 8% of its export orders. And it can only export what it has, as the Russian population remain deeply distrustful of the vaccine and have refused to take it.
The sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), has been pouring money into setting up new factories to the extent that Russia’s industrial production got a visible bump in the last quarter of 2020 from all the extra investment; the pharmaceutical industry registered a big gain in the statistics for the first time as a result of the money flowing into the sector.
In lieu of adequate production at home the RDIF has also been funding the establishment of production facilities in partner countries like Turkey and Belarus.
In related news, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Europe’s European Medical Agency (EMA) are wrapping up their inspection of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine and its production facilities and say they are optimistic about a positive outcome.
The Kremlin has criticised Western governments for dragging their heels on signing off on the safety of the Russian vaccine, which has been approved for use in over 60 countries so far, but in none of the developed world countries where the vaccination programmes using indigenous vaccines are almost complete.
The EMA in particular has come in for flak, as it has now taken almost as long to test Sputnik V as it took to develop the vaccine from scratch.
“Right now, our specialists are in Russia and their mission here will be completed by June 4,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge told TASS on June 3.
“That’s when a report with recommendations that will be taken into account will be prepared,” Kluge added on the sidelines of SPIEF.
The public health expert noted that “there are definitely grounds for optimism” on the prospect of Sputnik V’s approval.
“Both the European Medicines Agency and the WHO are examining the vaccine, which in itself is a good sign,” Kluge said.