Russia that is testing its first approved coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V has temporarily halted trials. A representative of the firm running the trials said that this is due to high demand and shortage of doses.
"It's related to the fact that there's colossal demand for the vaccine and they are not producing enough to keep up," the official representing Crocus Medical said. The firm along with the Russian health ministry are running the clinical trials for Sputnik V.
Staff from eight of the 25 Moscow clinics where the trials are taking place said that the vaccination of new participants in the Phase 3 of trials have been temporarily paused.
The official said that the vaccination will re-start from November 10. Alexei Kuznetsov, aide to Russia's health minister said that the target of 40,000 vaccinated volunteers will, however, be met. Russia is currently testing Sputnik V on 40,000 people in Moscow. It is also already vaccinating frontline workers in limited numbers.
This halt in trials comes after reports suggested that Russia is facing a steep challenge of scaling up production due to issues of availability of equipment. "There is one question right now and that's providing for industrial production (of the vaccine) in necessary volumes," President Vladmir Putin said, speaking at an investor forum in Russia. He said that there are certain problems with this related to availability or lack thereof of the necessary equipment. "Hard materials that are needed for the roll-out of mass production," he said.
President Putin, however added that Russia would produce the vaccine at the production sites of their foreign partners. "Most importantly, we are ready to agree to produce this vaccine or these vaccines at the production sites of our foreign partners. They have this equipment, and I want to emphasise this, not to the detriment of vaccination in Russia itself, since we still have to purchase or develop this equipment, we are ready to work with our foreign partners. I just want to remind you that we are generally ready to work more closely with our colleagues in science than we have done so far," he added.
Moscow aims to produce 3,00,000 doses this month, followed by 8,00,000 in November and 1.5 million in December. "We clearly understand how to act and therefore we are not planning to introduce sweeping restrictive measures, to launch a so-called nationwide lockdown, when the economy and business operations practically stop," Putin said in the forum.
UPDATE: Commenting on reports about suspension of trials, Alexey Butylin, Ph.D. Managing Director of the Moscow branch of Crocus Medical, a contract research organization that runs clinical trials, said: "Crocus Medical categorically denies information about the suspension of clinical trials of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine due to a shortage of the vaccine distributed by Reuters, citing anonymous sources in the company. This information is false, trials are ongoing, and there is sufficient vaccine supply."