India has become the 60th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. The Russian vaccine has the efficacy of 91.6 per cent and provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19 as demonstrated by the data published in one of the leading medical journals, The Lancet. The other countries that have approved the use of Sputnik V include Argentina, Bolivia, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, Bahrain and Sri Lanka. The development comes in the backdrop of states reverting to lockdowns to cope with India’s second wave of coronavirus. Sputnik V has a number of key advantages, including that there are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V. The price of the vaccine is less than US$ 10 per shot and it uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery the mechanism for both shots. This period has also seen a ramp-up in vaccination, with a cumulative 104.52 million doses given till Sunday night. To put this data in context, Israel and the US have fully vaccinated about 54% and 22% of their population respectively, while India is at around 1%. Sputnik V will be the third vaccine to be used in India against coronavirus. In January, DCGI had given the emergency use authorisation for two COVID-19 vaccines -- Covaxin of Bharat Biotech and Covishield of Oxford-AstraZeneca manufactured by Serum Institute of India in Pune.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has said more than 850 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine are going to be produced annually in India, which has also given approval for the emergency use of the vaccine against coronavirus infections in the country. Expanding vaccination coverage is the best and quickest way to limit the pandemic. The government must leverage India’s famed vaccine production capability and work to make more vaccines available quickly. Bharat Biotech plans to enhance its production capacity to more than double its monthly output by July. Separately, Indian manufacturers of Sputnik V are likely to increase manufacturing capacity. Avoiding regressive measures like lockdowns, which extract a huge economic cost, depends on the speed with which vaccines can be brought into play. India’s large vaccine manufacturing capacity puts us in a unique position as we can fully vaccinate the adult population faster than most countries.
- Prabhakar Purandare