Russia receives interest for 1 billion doses as it registers Covid-19 vaccine

Moscow has labelled the coronavirus vaccine as Sputnik V

This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Russian Direct Investment Fund / Handout " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Russia received interest for 1 billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine, which was registered in the country officially on Tuesday, and it aims to produce 500 million doses over the coming 12 months, the head of its sovereign wealth fund said.

“We already received tentative interest and preliminary requests for 1 billion doses of the Russian vaccine … from more than 20 countries,” Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is financing the country’s vaccine research, said in a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

Countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia have expressed the greatest interest in the vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V, he said. The RDIF is “about to finalise a number of contracts for the purchase of the vaccine,” Mr Dmitriev said.

The RDIF set up the following website dedicated to the vaccine:

“We believe today is a very positive day in the fight of humanity against coronavirus … It’s a major step not only by our scientists, not only by Russia, not only by our leadership but also for the world because we have one common enemy and that’s the coronavirus,” Mr Dmitriev said.

The RDIF is backing the production of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute and has invested 4 billion rubles (Dh202 million) with its portfolio companies Alium and R-Pharm.

“We have also built a partnership to produce the vaccine in five countries and now have a production capability of 500 million vaccines that can be produced in the next 12 months,” Mr Dmitriev said.

“The plan is to ramp-up production capacity even higher,” he said. “We will not be producing the vaccine only in Russia, we will be producing the vaccine with other countries.”

More than 20 million people have been infected with the coronavirus globally and about 740,000 have died, according to Worldometer, which is tracking the pandemic. The US has the highest number of infections at more than 5.2 million.

Phase III of vaccine clinical trials will start tomorrow and data will be published as it becomes available, Mr Dmitriev said.

“We expect clinical trials to start in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines very soon,” he said, adding that people taking part will be monitored and their antibodies measured over the next couple of months.

Mr Dmitriev said the Russian vaccine is an important milestone given the resurgence of the pandemic in countries battling second waves.

“Many predicted the coronavirus would just disappear … and a vaccine is a major step in the way forward,” he said.

“This is really about protecting people … It is also about enabling our economies to open and to work well. We need people to be healthy, to be working and the vaccine is really the solution,” Mr Dmitriev said.

“It’s an important step from an economic perspective to help economies of our countries recover faster.”

The Gamaleya Institute developed a test that can measure specific antibodies that attack the spike of the coronavirus, he said. The test takes several hours, and will be administered to all of the people who receive the vaccine. Russia’s vaccine will now be offered to volunteers, doctors and teachers.

"We expect tens of thousands of volunteers to be vaccinated in the next months and then, starting from October, there will be mass vaccination in Russia on a voluntary basis," Mr Dmitriev said.