‘Sputnik V will be made available to Indians’

One week after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia registered the world’s first vaccine to combat COVID-19, Kirill Dmitriev , the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that created the vaccine — Sputnik V — says it will be made available for India. In a written response to questions on concerns raised in several countries, he says the mechanisms used are the “safest” in the world.

Please tell us about the process before clearance for the vaccine. Has Russia approached the WHO for its pre-qualification?

Russia got a head start because its MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) vaccine was actually ready. COVID-19 is 80% similar to MERS. So, we were able to use a very safe approach. Clinical trials demonstrated that 100% of the volunteers developed immunity within 21 days. After the second vaccination, the immunity response was further boosted and provided for long-lasting immunity. All the volunteers are feeling well, no unforeseen or unwanted side effects were observed. Not a single participant of the clinical trials has caught COVID-19.

As you may know, myself, my wife and my parents, who are 74 years of age, have been vaccinated. None of us suffered any side effects.

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 neutralize 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. Post-registration research based on top international standards is involving thousands of people in Russia and abroad. The vaccine received a registration certificate from the Russian Ministry of Health on August 11. Most nations welcomed the vaccine ... and are working with us to study it.

Several countries like Germany, for example, have expressed scepticism about the vaccine breakthrough, asking for details on the “quality, efficacy and safety” of the vaccine

The vaccine has already been proved to be safe and effective and we will aim to make it available for use in countries all around the world and create strategic partnerships for vaccine production in all parts of the world, including India.

Compared to other candidate vaccines, human adenoviral vectors tested on tens of thousands people worldwide do not have impact on fertility and carcinogenic effects. Many novel approaches are not tested on those effects.

Today, this is the safest mechanism for introducing the genetic code of the virus spike into the human body, and it has been thoroughly studied not only in Russia but also internationally. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russian researchers have focussed on extracting a spike-coding gene from the novel coronavirus and implanting it into a familiar adenovirus vector for delivery into a human cell. They also proposed using two different types of adenoviral vectors (Ad5 and Ad26) for the first and second vaccination, boosting the effect of the vaccine. The vaccine thus “tricks the body,” which develops some immunity to one type of vector after the first intake.

What kind of cooperation do you hope for with India?

Historically, India has been a strategic partner for Russia across many sectors. The RDIF has been collaborating with Indian companies and organisations since 2012.

India has a great programme, Make in India, started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It has strongly developed the local pharma industry and let Russia and other countries see India as a potential hub for vaccine production. So, we will make the vaccine available for India and other countries.

All the volunteers are feeling well, no side effects were observed