A shipment of doses of the Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 is seen after arriving at Ezeiza International Airport, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.(File Photo / REUTERS)
A shipment of doses of the Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 is seen after arriving at Ezeiza International Airport, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.(File Photo / REUTERS)

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine now favorite in pandemic fight

Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as US and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.
Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 06, 2021 12:19 PM IST

President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use before it even completed safety trials sparked skepticism worldwide. Now he may reap diplomatic dividends as Russia basks in arguably its biggest scientific breakthrough since the Soviet era.

Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as US and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.

At least 19 countries have approved the inoculation for use, including European Union member state Hungary, while key markets such as Brazil and India are close to authorizing it. Now Russia’s setting its sights on the prized EU market as the bloc struggles with its vaccination program amid supply shortages.

In the global battle to defeat a pandemic that’s claimed 2.3 million lives in little more than a year, the race to obtain vaccines has assumed geopolitical significance as governments seek to emerge from the huge social and economic damage caused by lockdowns imposed to limit the spread of the virus. That’s giving Russia an edge as one of a handful of countries where scientists have produced an effective defense.

Its decision to name Sputnik V after the world’s first satellite whose 1957 launch gave the Soviet Union a stunning triumph against the US to start the space race only underlined the scale of the significance Moscow attached to the achievement. Results from the late-stage trials of 20,000 participants reviewed in The Lancet showed that the vaccine has a 91.6% success rate.

“This is a watershed moment for us,” Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, which backed Sputnik V’s development and is in charge of its international roll-out, said in an interview.

While it’s too early to gauge the political gains for Putin, Russia’s already making much of the soft-power impact of the vaccine on its image after years of international condemnation over election meddling and targeting of political opponents at home and abroad. State television reports extensively on deliveries to other nations.

Sputnik’s success won’t change hostility toward Putin among Western governments, though it could strengthen Russia’s geopolitical clout in regions such as Latin America, according to Oksana Antonenko, a director at Control Risks consultancy.

“With this vaccine, it’s proven itself capable of producing something new that’s in demand around the world,” she said.

Production constraints are the biggest challenge facing all manufacturers as global demand far outpaces supply. Russia, pledging free shots for its 146 million population, began output last year and the vaccine is currently being manufactured in countries including India, South Korea and Brazil.

This week, it emerged a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an agreement to produce Sputnik V in Turkey, even as the nation has deals to buy 50 million doses of China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac vaccine and 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot.

Despite Russia’s success, domestic demand remains lukewarm so far, driven by public suspicion of the authorities. Putin, 68, fueled the skepticism in December when he said he was waiting to get the inoculation until it had been cleared for people his age.

He still hasn’t said whether he’s been vaccinated, but other nations aren’t waiting to find out. The day after announcing he’d contracted Covid-19, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said January 25 he’d thanked a “genuinely affectionate” Putin for pledging 24 million doses of Sputnik V in the coming two months. Three days later, Bolivian President Luis Arce personally took delivery of a batch at La Paz airport.

Latin America is proving fertile territory. Argentina, which has struggled to obtain vaccine supplies, started its mass inoculation program after taking delivery of more than half a million Sputnik V doses by January. It’s been joined by Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela. In Brazil, the region’s biggest market, a decision announced February 3 to scrap the requirement for phase three trials for emergency use may speed up approval.

Guinea became the first African nation to start dispensing Sputnik V in December with Moscow-friendly President Alpha Conde and several ministers taking the vaccine. It expects to get 1.6 million doses this year and is also in talks on acquiring Chinese vaccines, along with AstraZeneca Plc’s shot. Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic and Ivory Coast are among other potential customers for Russia.

“We’re not in a position where we can say no to any vaccine. We’ve opted for the Pfizer vaccine, but we’re looking at other vaccines as well,” said Professor Joseph Benie, head of the National Institute of Public Hygiene in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “There’s an urgency now to start inoculating.”

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Sputnik V can be stored in a fridge rather than a freezer, making it easier to transport and distribute in poorer and hotter countries. At around $20 for a two-shot vaccination, it’s also cheaper than most Western alternatives. While more expensive than AstraZeneca, the Russian inoculation has shown higher efficacy than the UK vaccine.

For some nations such as Iran, which received the first batch of a promised 2 million doses this week, Russia offers a more palatable political alternative than Western suppliers. But Russia is also making inroads into countries such as the United Arab Emirates, which is traditionally close to the US and has approved Sputnik V for use.

China, whose inoculations are as low as 50% effective in the case of Sinovac Biotech, retains a lead in Asia. Only a handful of countries have opted for Sputnik V, including the Philippines, which is in talks for 25 million doses.

Chinese developers may now team up with Russia. The RDIF struck a preliminary deal to test a combined regimen of shots from Sputnik V and China’s CanSino Biologics to boost effectiveness against Covid-19, people with knowledge of the matter said Friday.

In what could represent the Kremlin’s biggest potential breakthrough, European regulators are starting to examine a request for authorization of Sputnik V after Germany promised to help expedite the process. With top EU officials still smarting over a sluggish vaccine roll-out, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday the Russian shot could be used to protect people in the 27-member bloc as long as it was approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Hungary has already granted emergency approval, signing a deal for 2 million doses of Sputnik V with the first 40,000 shots delivered Tuesday. “The vaccine cannot be a political question,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio Jan. 29. “One can only choose between western and eastern vaccines when you have enough.”

European approval may take several months because of the need to submit detailed data, The Lancet’s Editor-in-Chief Richard Horton told Bloomberg’s QuickTake. “I do think this Russian vaccine will come on tap,” but “not quickly,” he said.

While Russia says it expects the vaccine to be available to 700 million people this year, it’s facing production bottlenecks. “We have to be realistic. Given our other commitments, we will not be able to supply to Europe before May, other than Hungary,” said RDIF’s Dmitriev.

Still, the vaccine is paying dividends for Putin. Even as he visited Moscow Friday to confront Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell took time to congratulate Russia on developing Sputnik V.

“It’s good news for the whole mankind,” Borrell said. “It means that we are going to have more tools to face the pandemic.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Vials are seen on a packing line of the factory of British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Wavre on February 8, 2021 where the Covid-19 CureVac vaccine will be produced.(AFP)
Vials are seen on a packing line of the factory of British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Wavre on February 8, 2021 where the Covid-19 CureVac vaccine will be produced.(AFP)

CureVac says preliminary trials show Covid-19 vaccine effective against variants

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 10:28 PM IST
CureVac chief Haas told EU lawmakers that the results of the preliminary trials on the vaccine's effects on variants would be published soon.
Close
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson(Reuters)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson(Reuters)

UK work visas plunged in pandemic as investors stayed away

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 10:10 PM IST
The figures released by the Home Office coincided with the worst economic slump in three centuries and a surge in unemployment, with lockdowns to control the virus shutting vast sections of the economy.
Close
File photo of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.(AFP)
File photo of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.(AFP)

Pakistan stays in FATF ‘grey list’, given June deadline to implement action plan

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 10:23 PM IST
Pakistan has been on the FATF's grey list since June 2018 and the government was given a final warning in February 2020 to complete the 27 action points.
Close
FILE - This June 7, 2019 file photo released by Dubai Police Headquarters shows the aftermath of a bus crash, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. State-linked media in the UAE says a Dubai court has reduced the sentence of the Omani bus driver who smashed into a warning sign off a highway in 2019, killing 17 people on board. The appeals court reduced his seven-year sentence followed by deportation to just one year without deportation. (Dubai Police HQ via AP, File)(AP)
FILE - This June 7, 2019 file photo released by Dubai Police Headquarters shows the aftermath of a bus crash, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. State-linked media in the UAE says a Dubai court has reduced the sentence of the Omani bus driver who smashed into a warning sign off a highway in 2019, killing 17 people on board. The appeals court reduced his seven-year sentence followed by deportation to just one year without deportation. (Dubai Police HQ via AP, File)(AP)

Sentence reduced for driver in fatal Dubai tour bus crash that killed 12 Indians

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | AP, Dubai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 10:02 PM IST
  • Among the 31 people on the ill-fated bus were also citizens of Bangladesh, Germany and the Philippines.
Close
This wind-carved rock seen in the first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument shows just how much detail is captured by the camera systems.(NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU / AFP)
This wind-carved rock seen in the first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument shows just how much detail is captured by the camera systems.(NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU / AFP)

High-definition, zoomable view of Mars captured by Nasa's Perseverance rover

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 09:17 PM IST
  • The US space agency on Wednesday released the first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z, a dual-camera system equipped with a zoom function.
Close
A pedestrian wearing her facemask and holding a cup of coffee walks past a closed sign hanging on the door of a small business in Los Angeles, California.(AFP)
A pedestrian wearing her facemask and holding a cup of coffee walks past a closed sign hanging on the door of a small business in Los Angeles, California.(AFP)

US government revises fourth quarter GDP up slightly to 4.1%

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 09:16 PM IST
Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic health — grew at an annual rate of 4.1% in the fourth quarter, up from an initial estimate of 4% growth, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
Close
A server carries food for a customer at Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica, California. (AP)
A server carries food for a customer at Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica, California. (AP)

US jobless claims fall to 730,000 but layoffs remain high

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 09:08 PM IST
The latest figures come as the job market has made scant progress in the past three months. Hiring averaged just 29,000 a month from November through January.
Close
FILE PHOTO: An electrical substation is seen after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 20, 2021. REUTERS/Go Nakamura/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: An electrical substation is seen after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 20, 2021. REUTERS/Go Nakamura/File Photo(REUTERS)

Texas lawmakers kick off investigation into deadly power blackout

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 08:48 PM IST
Up to 48% of the state's power generation was offline at times last week. Utilities were ordered to cut power to prevent a larger catastrophe, Bill Magness, chief executive of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state's grid operator, said on Wednesday.
Close
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, a worker inspects syringes of a vaccine for COVID-19 produced by Sinovac at its factory in Beijing. China approved two new more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use Thursday, adding to its growing arsenal of shots: one from CanSino Biologics, and a second one from state-owned Sinopharm. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)(AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, a worker inspects syringes of a vaccine for COVID-19 produced by Sinovac at its factory in Beijing. China approved two new more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use Thursday, adding to its growing arsenal of shots: one from CanSino Biologics, and a second one from state-owned Sinopharm. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)(AP)

China approves two more domestic Covid-19 vaccines, increasing number to 4

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 08:47 PM IST
The two newly approved vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
Close
Fauci says the vaccines distributed in the US “clearly can take care of that particular strain.”(AP)
Fauci says the vaccines distributed in the US “clearly can take care of that particular strain.”(AP)

Anthony Fauci asks Americans to take whatever vaccine is available

AP, Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:50 PM IST
  • Dr Anthony Fauci warns people not to hold off on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while waiting for the slightly more effective Pfizer or Moderna shots.
Close
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, attendees applaud during a ceremony to mark the official end of extreme poverty in China held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,(AP)
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, attendees applaud during a ceremony to mark the official end of extreme poverty in China held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,(AP)

China celebrates official end of extreme poverty, lauds Xi

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:16 PM IST
The propaganda apparatus has been linking national successes to Xi, including fighting the coronavirus, China’s rise as a technology creator and December’s successful lunar mission to bring back moon rocks.
Close
Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attends an event in Manama, Bahrain.(AP)
Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attends an event in Manama, Bahrain.(AP)

Israel, Bahrain leaders discuss Iran, possible vaccine plant

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:02 PM IST
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates formalised ties with Israel on Sept. 15 in part over shared concerns about Iran, in a deal forged by former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Close
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum(AP)
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum(AP)

Dubai's Latifa urged UK police to reopen sister's kidnapping case: Report

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 06:47 PM IST
Latifa reportedly asked Cambridgeshire Police to refocus on the case of her sister Shamsa, now 39, who was captured aged 18 and has not been seen in public since.
Close
A second official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Commission was worried about "ghost" vaccines.(AP)
A second official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Commission was worried about "ghost" vaccines.(AP)

Fraudsters offer 400 million 'ghost' Covid vaccines in EU: Officials

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 06:29 PM IST
Two officials with the bloc's executive European Commission estimated that around 400 million doses of "ghost" vaccine had been offered by fraudsters at a price of up to 3 billion euros ($3.67 billion).
Close
The Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.(HT Photo)
The Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.(HT Photo)

Sri Lanka receives 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines from India

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 06:23 PM IST
Sri Lanka's acting health minister Channa Jayasumana said 500,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine arrived on Thursday. He said the new batch was ordered under an agreement between the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) of Sri Lanka and the Serum Institute of India.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP