Russian COVID-19 vaccine | Sputnik V is safe and effective, says RDIF CEO

Russian COVID-19 vaccine | Sputnik V is safe and effective, says RDIF CEO

Vaccine will be made available to Indians, says Kirill Dmitriev.

One week after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia registered the world’s first vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and days after the Russian Health Ministry said the vaccine would go into production soon, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that created the vaccine — Sputnik V — says it is the “safest” vaccine under trial at present.

In a written response to questions posed by The Hindu on concerns raised in several countries over the efficacy of the vaccine, which has been produced in a very short span, Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of RDIF, said that his own parents had been tested with the vaccine and had not shown any side effects. He didn’t confirm specific plans to collaborate with Indian companies but says that the Russian vaccine will be made available to Indians.

Please tell us about the process before the vaccine has been granted clearance

Russia got a head start because its MERS vaccine was actually ready. COVID-19 is 80% similar to MERS. So, we were able to use a very safe approach. The Russian vaccine is based on the already existing human adenoviral-vector platform where inactivated adenoviruses act as vectors or vehicles, delivering genetic material from S-protein, which forms the spike of coronavirus into a human cell to induce an immune response.

Сlinical trials demonstrated that 100% of 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 after being administered with the vaccine.

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 as a great sign of help and are working with us to study it.

What is your response to questions about “efficacy and safety” of the Sputnik vaccine?

The registration of Sputnik V, the first vaccine against COVID-19 in the world, is a milestone in the global efforts to protect people against coronavirus. Not only will the vaccine protect people, but it will also help the global economy recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic faster.

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.

I have already mentioned that clinical trials of the vaccine have demonstrated positive results, with 100% of volunteers developing strong immunity response with no reported side effects.

The RDIF website has referred to India as one of the countries that will be part of the trials and vaccine production after that. What kind of cooperation do you hope for with India at this stage?

Historically, India has been a strategic partner for Russia across many sectors. The Russian Direct Investment Fund has been collaborating with Indian companies and organisations since 2012, developing joint investment projects aimed at supporting the national economies and fostering economic ties between the two countries.

India has a great programme, Made 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 Russian vaccine available for India and other countries as well.

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