Sputnik V: From Russia with love
Kester Kenn Klomegah
As African countries experienced increasing coronavirus infections, with the overall number of cases exceeding 3,79 million mid-February, Russia stepped in to supply 300 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine through the African Union.
It an effort to assist to stop further spread of the pandemic on the continent.
An official release said that the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, set up by the African Union to acquire additional vaccine doses so that Africa can attain a target immunisation of 60 percent, has received an offer of 300 million Sputnik V vaccines from the Russian Federation. This includes a financing package for any member states wishing to secure this vaccine.
Meanwhile, the Task Team advises that the 270 million doses previously secured from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnsons were all taken up by the first allocation phase deadline through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP). With these additional 300 million Sputnik V vaccines, AMSP accelerates online COVID-19 vaccines pre-orders for the 55 African Union member states.
“The Sputnik V vaccine from the Russian Federation is now available on the AMSP for the consideration of our AU member states,” says Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). “Bilateral and private sector partnerships such as these aid our efforts to bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.”
Dr Nkengasong is worried that vaccine apartheid will have dire consequences for Africans in the near future. According to him, the continent needed to be taken along by the developed world as they vigorously roll out inoculation efforts. Africa’s rollout has been relatively slower with over a third of African countries yet to receive doses.
About Africa’s lack of vaccines, he said: “That is absolutely one of our greatest concerns, that the vaccine situation will continue to exacerbate the inequality gap that exists in the world especially the north – south divide. My greatest fear is that once the United States and Europe get the vaccine, they begin to impose the need to have vaccine certificate to travel and that is extremely complicated for Africans to travel across the world.”
Dr Nkengasong added: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60 percent continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has a timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”
While details, including clinical and technical information, are now accessible on the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), Sputnik V vaccines will be available for a period of 12 months commencing May 2021.
The African Union member states that wish to secure funding should approach the African Export-Import Bank through their Central Banks, as has been the case with the other vaccines that have been on offer. The lender approved US$2 billion for participating suppliers, allowing the finalization of supply contracts.
According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Sputnik V is one of the world’s top three coronavirus vaccines in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators.
Sputnik V had been approved in Russia, Belarus, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Republic of Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Republika Srpska (entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, Montenegro, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Gabon and San Marino.
Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, has said that Sputnik V has a number of key advantages:
- Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6 percent as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals. It is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90 percent; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19;
- 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;
- Sputnik V 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;
- The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades;
- The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine;
- There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V; and
- The price of Sputnik V is less than US$10 per shot, making it affordable around the world. – Eurasia Review