Sputnik launched in Hyderabad at ₹995 a dose
- Dr Reddy’s Laboratories said in a statement that the jab marked the soft launch of the vaccine in the country.
On Friday, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories’s chief executive officer Deepak Sapra became the first person in the country to receive the Sputnik V vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute with assistance with the Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF after it received emergency use authorisation in India on April 13.
DRL said in a statement that the jab marked the soft launch of the vaccine in the country. This is the first foreign-made Covid-19 vaccine to be used in India. The vaccine is priced at ₹995.40 per shot in the market, with the possibility of prices coming down further once local production starts.
Friday’s dose was one of 150,000 of Sputnik V imported by DRL from Russia on May 1. The Central Drug Laboratory, Kasauli,gave its regulatory clearance for the local launch of the vaccine on May 13. DRL hopes to receive more import consignments in coming months and will work with local manufacturing companies (Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma, Virchow Biotech), which will, starting July, churn out locally made versions of the vaccine. Together, these companies have the capacity to manufacture 850 million doses of Sputnik V in a year although it isn’t clear how many they will manufacture this year.
A note put out by the Union government on Thursday said 156 million doses of Sputnik V will be available/produced in India between August and December.
The launch of the vaccine will ease some of the pressure on supply of vaccines, which is expected to remain tight for at least the next few months. Some states have had to suspend Phase 3 of the vaccine drive, for people in the 18-44 years age group, on account of unavailability of vaccines.
DRL said on Friday that it hopes to receive 36 million doses of Sputnik V in the next few months as part of its contract with RDIF. “Our total commitment contracted from RDIF is 250 million doses of which the initial 15-20% is expected through imports,” DRL’s MV Ramana said in a post-earnings press conference.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the company has struck deals with state governments and private hospitals to sell them imported doses of the vaccine. Once local manufacturing starts, half the output will be sold to the central government and the rest to states and private hospitals.
Sputnik V is a two-dose shot (but two unidentical doses unlike other two-dose vaccines) that is 91.6% effective in preventing serious illness. The second dose is a booster shot and the company also has a single dose variant, Sputnik Light with an efficacy of 79.4%. A RL executive told NDTV in an interview that the company is working closely with Gamaleya Institute to launch the vaccine later, conditional to regulatory clearance.
In India, the vaccine is being tested by Dr Reddy’s in 1,600 people in a phase 2/3 trial meant as a “bridging study” that all foreign-made pharmaceutical products need to undergo.
The second batch of Sputnik V is expected to arrive in India by the end of the week.
“The imported doses of the vaccine are presently priced at an MRP of ₹948 + 5% GST per dose, with the possibility of a lower price point when local supply begins. The Company is working closely with its six manufacturing partners in India to fulfill regulatory requirements to ensure smooth and timely supply,” the DRL statement said.
Sputnik V is the third vaccine to be given Emergency Use Authorisation in India after Covishield, Serum Institute of India’s local version of the Oxford University -AstraZeneca vaccine and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Apart from partnership with Dr Reddy’s Labs, which is also conducting Sputnik V clinical trials locally, RDIF has entered manufacturing partnership with other local companies for its production.
Among these companies, Hetero Biopharma received clearance from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) recently to conduct phase 3 clinical trials.
India has allowed citizens over the age of 18 years to receive Covid-19 vaccinations beginning May1.
“With the rising cases in India, vaccination is our most effective tool in our battle against COVID-19. Contributing to the vaccination drive in India is our biggest priority right now to help Indians be healthy and safe,” said GV Prasad, co-chairman and managing director, Dr Reddy’s.
India will be producing at least 50 million doses per month of Sputnik V, over the next couple of months.
“India is the leading production hub for Sputnik V. RDIF has reached agreements with the leading pharmaceutical companies in the country (Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma, Virchow Biotech) aimed at production of more than 850 million doses per year,” said RDIF in a statement.
To date Sputnik V is registered in 65 countries with total population of over 3.2 billion people.
Reuters contributed to this story