MOSCOW – Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), BRICS and other friendly nations are likely to be the first foreign recipients of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, named Sputnik V, according to Professor Ruslan Abramov of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.
Last week, Russia registered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute with support from the Russian Defecse Ministry and the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). According to RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev, the country has already received preliminary requests for 1 billion vaccine doses from over 20 countries.
“Priority is likely to be given to friendly countries and countries with the difficult epidemiological situation. Among possible recipients are primarily CIS nations, China, India, Brazil, Serbia and other eastern European countries. However, a wider outreach is not ruled out,” Abramov, who heads the university’s department of public and municipal administration, told Sputnik.
At the same time, it is premature to talk about Sputnik V as a commercial project, the expert believes, noting that Russia will first satisfy its own needs.
“There are several reasons for that. First, we must really make sure that the vaccine is safe and effective in the longer term. Then, it should meet demand in the domestic market. And only later we can talk about the commercial aspect,” he explained.
According to Abramov, a new stage of the “vaccine race” is underway in the world, and Russia is firmly in the lead.
“But time will tell whether this leadership will continue and strengthen. Do not forget that many countries in the world have powerful and serious virology centers that produce vaccines and have a good record. Despite the fact that other countries developing a vaccine are at our heels, the chances for Russia to build on its leadership are rather high. At least, time has been won, and this is the most valuable resource,” Abramov concluded.
As Western countries express reservations about the Sputnik V vaccine, which has yet to pass the required Phase 3 of clinical trials, experts from top Russian universities believe that it is safe and effective.
“Conditional registration is common in Europe, the United States and other countries. This mechanism is applied to innovative drugs, or when it is difficult to recruit the required number of volunteers, and in situations when the drug is needed as quickly as possible. At the same time, its safety has been demonstrated. It can already be used with certain restrictions,” Vadim Tarasov, the director of Sechenov University’s Institute for Translational Medicine and Biotechnology, said.
Tarasov expressed hope that the upcoming publication of data on the vaccine trials would negate some of the criticism toward the developers. The researcher stressed that Sechenov University “can vouch” for this data.
The Russian vaccine is first of all recommended to people who have strictly followed lockdown rules and not gained immunity, Pavel Volchkov, head of the genomic engineering lab at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, told Sputnik.
Volchkov noted that after getting a vaccine shot, a person may briefly feel unwell and, for instance, have a high temperature. This is because human adenoviruses were used in the vaccine’s development. The reaction is normal and will not last longer than a day, the expert added.