Russia’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to supply 100mn doses of its coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik-V, to Indian drug company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the fund said yesterday, as Moscow speeds up plans to distribute its shot abroad.
The deal comes after the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300mn doses of the vaccine in India, which is a major consumer of Russian oil and arms.
Dr Reddy’s, one of India’s top pharmaceutical companies, will carry out Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine in India, pending regulatory approval, RDIF said in a statement.
Deliveries to India could begin in late 2020, it said, adding this was subject to the completion of trials and the vaccine’s registration by regulatory authorities in India.
Russia was the first country to license a novel coronavirus vaccine before large-scale Phase III trials were complete, stirring concern among scientists and doctors about the safety and efficacy of the shot.
The Phase I and II results had shown promise, G V Prasad, co-chairman of Dr Reddy’s, was cited in the RDIF statement as saying.
“Sputnik V vaccine could provide a credible option in our fight against Covid-19 in India,” he said.
There was no detail about the price of the vaccine but RDIF has said previously it was not aiming at making a profit, just covering costs.
The RDIF has already reached vaccine supply deals with Kazakhstan, Brazil and Mexico.
Russia has billed Sputnik-V as the first vaccine against the coronavirus to be registered in the world.
Phase III trials, involving at least 40,000 people, were launched in Russia on August 26 but have yet to be completed.
Meanwhile, the Serum Institute of India has received regulatory approval to resume local clinical trials of AstraZeneca’s potential Covid-19 vaccine, a source familiar with the matter said.
The approval came from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), according to the source.
AstraZeneca has resumed British clinical trials of the vaccine, one of the most advanced in development for Covid-19, after they were paused earlier this month following a serious side effect in a trial participant.
Trials have also resumed in Brazil and South Africa, but remain on hold in the United States.
Indian regulators had allowed Serum’s trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine to resume under certain conditions, including increased safety monitoring and informing volunteers about new findings, a DCGI source said.
“We allowed them (to resume trials) after a detailed discussion with authorities in the UK and the company itself,” the source added.
Serum, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, did not respond to requests for comment, while DCGI representatives did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.
The announcement comes as India’s coronavirus cases surged past 5mn yesterday, piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients.
India is only the second country in the world to cross the grim milestone and said this week it is considering granting an emergency authorisation for a vaccine, particularly for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.
With its latest 1mn cases recorded in just 11 days, a world record, India now has 5.02mn infections.
Only the United States has more, with 6.59mn.
India has for some time been recording the world’s biggest daily jumps in cases, and yesterday, the rise was just over 90,000 with a record 1,290 deaths.
While India took 167 days to reach 1mn cases, the next million came in just 21 days, faster than the US and Brazil, according to the Times of India.
Just 29 days later, India became only the third country after the US and Brazil to post 4mn infections.
India passed Brazil earlier this month.
Even so, and with India now testing around a million people daily, many experts say that this is not enough and that the true number of infections may be far higher.
This has been borne out in several studies in recent weeks measuring antibodies against the virus among the cramped populations of megacities New Delhi and Mumbai.
The India Council for Medical Research, the country’s lead pandemic agency, said last week that its survey had suggested that already in May, 6.5mn people were infected.
The same goes for deaths – 82,066 as of yesterday, less than half the US toll of 195,000 – with many deaths not properly recorded by authorities even in normal times.
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