Outlook Is Bleak for Russia's Sputnik Vaccine

WHO approval looks 'unlikely' following invasion of Ukraine: 'WaPo'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2022 8:30 AM CDT
Outlook Is Bleak for Russia's Sputnik Vaccine
A medical worker prepares a dose of Russia's Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site set up inside the Alba Caracas hotel in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 25, 2022.   (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

Russia's coronavirus vaccine was the first approved for use in any country just six months into the global pandemic. But Sputnik V has now seen "an inauspicious fall," the Washington Post reports, adding Russia's invasion of Ukraine looks to have "sabotaged any further aspirations" for the vaccine "whose arrival stunned the world." A team from the World Health Organization was expected to visit manufacturing plants in Russia on March 7 to complete the final step toward emergency-use authorization, which would allow Sputnik V to join the global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX. But the visit has been delayed indefinitely due to operational issues, and an emergency-use declaration by the WHO now looks "unlikely," per the Post.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which partnered with the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology on the vaccine, has been sanctioned by the US and European Union. The US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control labeled RDIF a "slush fund" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, per Nature. But RDIF—which was touting the Sputnik Light single-dose booster in the days before the invasion—claims the sanctions, depriving billions of people of its "safe and efficient" vaccine, are politically motivated. Gamaleya Director Alexander Gintsburg agrees, telling the Post that delays in the approval process are meant to prevent "a large share of the market going over to Sputnik V and the Russian Federation that is promoting it."

But the invasion of Ukraine exacerbated existing production issues with Sputnik V. Per Reuters, production slowed in India, where people are now having to wait for Sputnik boosters. Germany's Bavaria state, also home to a production facility, has said it would block production even with the WHO's approval. As it stands, no more than 300 million doses of Sputnik V have been sold compared to more than 5.3 billion doses of China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, which have "lower reported efficacy," per the Post. As RDIF's deal with UNICEF to provide enough Sputnik V doses to vaccinate 110 million people in developing countries hinges on the WHO's approval, competitors including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are now expected to step in. (More coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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