Russia’s Controversial Vaccine is Not Even WHO-Approved. Why Are We Keen on Mass Producing It?


Russia’s Controversial Vaccine is Not Even WHO-Approved. Why Are We Keen on Mass Producing It?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Over five months since the coronavirus pandemic put large parts of the world under lockdown, claiming lives and livelihoods, the race to develop a vaccine has been heating up. A month ago, Russia claimed to have won this race with its president Vladimir Putin announcing the launch of the Sputnik-V.

Now, according to reports, our country’s Health Ministry is in talks with Russia to produce the Covid-19 vaccine. “India and Russia are in communication. Some initial information has been shared,” Health Ministry Secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, was quoted as saying.

Last week, reports indicated that Russia was keen to manufacture its vaccine, dubbed Sputnik-V, in India. The CEO of Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev had said that India was one of the countries that had the manufacturing capabilities to mass produce the vaccine.

“We have great cooperation with India, Indian scientists and Indian manufacturers. They understand our technology,” he said in an interview with India Today.

Dmitriev had also indicated that the country was keen on holding phase III of the vaccine’s clinical trials in India. The clinical trials have been a point of contention ever since Sputnik-V was announced, with several scientists across the world accusing Russia of fast-tracking the vaccine without carrying out all the required checks and balances.

Vladimir Putin said earlier in August that the vaccine was registered, and even revealed that his daughter had been inoculated. However, this announcement came before the Phase III trials were conducted, which the World Health Organisation has said is the real test of how safe the vaccine will be, and also takes months to complete.

Russia has now said that it has commenced this phase of trials, even as reports indicate that India might play a huge part in its production. The Indian Embassy in Moscow is in talks with the Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology on the safety and efficacy data related to the trials, ThePrint reported.

Efforts to complete trials of our three homegrown vaccines, meanwhile, also have been simultaneously ramped up, the ICMR director general Balram Bhargava has been quoted as saying.

As coronavirus cases continue to compound over the world, it’s only a matter of time before one of these vaccines sees a breakthrough. Until then, the rest of us will just have to continue to wash our hands, wear masks, and stay away from public gatherings.