A sudden surge in Covid-19 cases in Russia has delayed large-scale commercial rollout of Sputnik V vaccine in India.

There has been a delay of 5-6 weeks due to the situation in Russia but the authorities hope that the process will smoothen by August-end or early September. As many as six Indian companies, including the Serum Institute of India, which authorities claim have all been convinced of the efficacy of this vaccine, will be involved in the local production.

Diplomatic sources from Moscow told ET that local production of Sputnik V in India will increase substantially from August-September, enabling a smooth rollout. Russia, which had managed the pandemic effectively and opened its borders for certain countries, including India, has witnessed over 20,000 cases a day. Following this, the Russian authorities have pushed their vaccination drive at home delaying exports, sources explained. Flights from New Delhi to Moscow were operational even during the second wave in India.

Russia has now prioritised vaccination of its own citizens delaying exports of Sputnik V to other countries, including India. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which is the distributor of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, had planned to commercially launch the vaccine last month. However, it has restricted the rollout to a “soft launch” in major private hospitals in Metro cities. The main issue in the commercial rollout is the difference in the first and second dose composition of Sputnik V. Unlike Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech manufactured Covaxin, Sputnik V second dose cannot be administered from the same vial. The gap between the two doses is 21 days.

According to the ministry of health and family welfare statistics, a total of 3.3 million doses of Sputnik V were imported till July 14. This includes 3 million first doses and 0.3 million second doses. Till July 16, 0.261 million doses of Sputnik V have been administered in India. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories told ET in a written statement, “We want to reiterate that all hospitals that received dose 1 from us, will also receive dose 2 in equal quantity on time. We are currently in a silent period before results and, therefore, will not be able to comment further.”

A single dose of the Sputnik V vaccine may be enough to elicit strong antibody response against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in already infected people, according to a study. Previous studies have found that two doses of Sputnik V, a vector vaccine produced using a combination of two adenoviruses, results in 92% efficacy against Covid-19 infection. Sputnik Light might also begin its local production from September, sources indicated.

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