Sputnik V becomes third Covid-19 vaccine approved in India

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1000 Sputnik doses arrived in April

A third coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in India amid a deadly second wave of infections.

Russia’s Sputnik V has been deemed to be safe, and works in a way similar to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab which is being made in India as Covishield.

Sputnik V gives around 92% protection against Covid-19, late stage trial results published in The Lancet reveal.

India has so far given more than 100 million doses of two approved vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin.

Sputnik V’s approval came as India overtook Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of cases globally.

With the total case tally of more than 13.5 million cases, India is now only behind the United States which has reported more than 31 million cases. With 13.4 million cases, Brazil is now at number three.

India aims to vaccinate 250 million “priority people” by the end of July. But experts say that the pace of vaccination has been slow and unless the drive is scaled up, the target could be missed.

On Tuesday the government decided to give emergency approvals to vaccines already in use in other countries. It said the decision was taken to “expand the basket of vaccines for domestic use and hasten the pace and coverage of vaccination”.

It added that vaccines that have been approved by regulators in the US, the UK, European Union and Japan would be given fast-track approvals in India. The health ministry added that the first 100 recipients of such vaccines would be monitored for seven days before wider rollout is allowed.

This means that vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna could become available for Indians. However, the government is yet to give any details.

Antigua and Barbuda Becomes 57th Country to Register Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine

What do we know about Sputnik V?

The vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, initially generated some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released.

But scientists say its benefits have now been demonstrated.

It uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body.

Safely exposing the body to a part of the virus’s genetic code in this way allows it to recognise the threat and learn to fight it off, without the risk of becoming ill.

After being vaccinated, the body starts to produce antibodies especially tailored to the coronavirus.

This means that the immune system is primed to fight coronavirus when it encounters it for real.

It can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8C degrees (a standard fridge is roughly 3-5C degrees) making it easier to transport and store.

But it has a different second dose

Unlike other similar vaccines, the Sputnik jab uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and the second dose – given 21 days apart.

They both target the coronavirus’s distinctive “spike”, but use different vectors – the neutralised virus that carries the spike to the body.

The idea is that using two different formulas boosts the immune system even more than using the same version twice – and may give longer-lasting protection.

media caption“Vaccine shows how Russia can be a positive global partner”

As well as proving effective, it was also safe with no serious reactions linked to the vaccine during the trial.

Some side-effects to a vaccine are expected, but these are usually mild, including a sore arm, tiredness and a bit of a temperature. There were no deaths or serious illnesses in the vaccinated group linked to the jab.

Sputnik V has been approved so far in 60 countries, including Argentina, Palestinian territories, Venezuela, Hungary, UAE and Iran.

When will Sputnik V be available in India?

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is marketing the vaccine, has signed deals to produce more than 750 million doses of Sputnik V in India with six domestic vaccine makers, according to reports.

Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical major Dr Reddy’s Laboratories will be importing the first batch of 125 million doses to India during this quarter.

Supplies will be ramped up only next quarter when six Indian firms begin making the vaccine under the supervision of Dr Reddy’s.

Until then, India will mostly depend on two previously approved candidates, Covaxin and Covishield.

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