Russia and India in talks about manufacturing deal for Russia's COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V

India and Russia are in conversation to possibly manufacture the Russian COVID-19 vaccine name Sputnik V, as well as a Phase 3 human trial of the vaccine in India.

During a press conference, when asked about a possible collaboration between Russia and India on the vaccine, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, "As far as Sputnik V vaccine is concerned, both India and Russia are in communication. Some initial information has been shared while some detailed information is awaited."

Another health ministry official was quoted by the Print as saying, "the Russian government is keen to collaborate with India on the vaccine....our embassy in Moscow is also trying to get the data and are in touch with the Gamaleya institute."

The matter was discussed by a national expert group on vaccine administration for COVID-19 in a meeting held on 22 August, a source told PTI. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with the Department of Health Research has been asked to lead and look into the matter.

According to sources that spoke to PTI and the Print, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev has approached the office of Principal Scientific Advisor K VijayRaghavan as well as secretaries of the DBT and the Department of Health Research.

"The Vaccine and Research and Development Taskforce co-chair by Dr Vinod Paul (Member of the Niti Aayog) and Professor VijayRaghavan will examine the suggestions for potential collaborations on vaccine development," a government official told ANI.

"The committee, with inputs from members, particularly the DBT and the ICMR, will examine the information on the matter and will link potential collaborators were robust and value-added collaborations where robust and value-added collaborations are feasible and meaningful," the official added.

Russia made its intentions known about wanting to partner with India for production when Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said, "The production of the vaccine is a very important issue. Currently, we are looking for a partnership with India. We believe that they are capable of producing the Gamaleya vaccine and it is very important to say that those partnerships to produce the vaccine will enable us to cover the demand that we have."

He also said Russia is looking forward to international cooperation to conduct widespread phase three trials.

"We are going to do clinical trials not just in Russia but also in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, probably in Brazil and India. We are planning to produce the vaccine in more than five countries and there is a very high demand from Asia, Latin America, Italy and other parts of the world regarding the delivery of the vaccine," he added.

Sputnik V vaccine

The vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya Institute along with Russia’s Defense Ministry uses a different virus – the common cold-causing adenovirus – that’s been modified to carry genes for the “spike” protein that coats the coronavirus, as a way to prime the body to recognize if a real COVID-19 infection comes along.

The vaccine is similar to others being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics and Britain’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

The vaccine is supposedly given in two doses and will help people develop immunity to the virus for at least two years. For now, the vaccine being produced will be used to meet the demands in Russia. However, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said he cannot rule out exporting the vaccine as yet. While many countries are sceptical of the vaccines, still others have begun talks with Russia to either get the vaccine or conduct human trials in their countries.

The vaccine will be given to people who volunteer for including doctors. Previously, frontline works and teachers were said to be the first in line for the vaccine's initial doses and it would be administered free of charge.

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