As civil society groups urge US President Joe Biden to formulate a global vaccine manufacturing programme by sharing technology and providing financial assistance to companies and governments to scale up Covid-19 vaccine production across the world, Russia has announced that the country is already enabling free technology transfer and financial support for capital expenditure to its Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing partners in other countries, including India.
Announcing the news of Drug Controller General of India's (DCGI) approval for Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for use in India, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the agency that is spearheading Sputnik V vaccine manufacturing and supply partnerships globally, said India has become the 60th country to approve Sputnik V. "RDIF has created partnerships with a number of India's leading pharmaceutical companies for production of Sputnik V which will provide for both vaccination of the population in India and global distribution of the Russian vaccine. Over 850 million doses of Sputnik V are going to be produced in India annually sufficient to vaccinate more than 425 million people around the world," Kirill Dmitriev, CEO RDIF said.
Addressing a virtual press briefing on April 13, Dmitriev said its vaccine partnership covers 20 producers in 10 countries including Korea, China and India. Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma, Virchow Biotech are the Indian companies with which RDIF has inked production agreements.
The plan is to have 50 million doses of vaccines produced from India every month very soon. "Some of the Indian companies are already producing Sputnik and have passed all the necessary checks and quality controls that are done in Russia. But the real ramp up of capacity will take two to three months. Over the summer I believe we will see over 50 million doses of Sputnik produced a month," he said.
The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years. It uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots.
Meanwhile, 66 health, development and humanitarian organisations asked the US President to ensure that the technology used in that country to develop Covid-19 vaccine, the mRNA technology, be shared openly, including via the WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, to allow scientists and manufacturers worldwide to support vaccine delivery and development. "Where necessary, the US government should use its power under existing law to license technology, ensuring its availability and affordability now and for the future," the groups demanded. "A total investment of less than $25 billion, including whole-of government efforts to source raw materials and provide technical assistance, can support the rapid production of 8 billion doses of mRNA vaccine, enough for more than half the world's population," the joint letter signed by the civil society groups said.