Russia has launched its official mass vaccination program against COVID-19 with the country’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute, the vaccine is 91.4 percent effective based on late-stage interim results.
In phase three, a large study involving thousands of people to prove that the vaccine protects people, is not finished yet. Studies are currently ongoing in Russia, Belarus, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and India.
Sputnik V, named for the Soviet satellite that started the space race, was used to vaccinate around 200,000 people believed to be at risk across Russia – home to 145 million people -.
It was first registered for emergency use in August, making it the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for the general public.
Agency approval came ahead of large-scale clinical trials and warned scientists both at home and abroad who said data from tens of thousands of people was needed to ensure the sting was safe and effective.
The Kremlin has given assurances that the Russians will be the first to be vaccinated, while Moscow continues to discuss international delivery deals.
Vaccination will be free for Russian citizens, but there are reports that, like in most other countries, the government will limit its work to convincing people to accept the vaccine if they are hesitant and an increasing “anti-Vaxxer “Experience movement.
Sputnik V is administered in liquid form in two shots 21 days apart. It must be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or below.
However, a freeze-dried version can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures of 2-8 ° C, according to the Gamaleya Institute.
It is a so-called viral vector vaccine, which means that it uses a different virus to transport the DNA that codes for the necessary immune response into cells.
Each dose is based on different viral vectors that usually cause colds.
It uses a similar approach to Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine which, according to preliminary experimental data, could be up to 90 percent effective.
While Sputnik V uses human adenovirus vectors, Oxford-AstraZeneca’s shot is made from a weakened version of a cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees.
AstraZeneca announced that it will work with the Gamaleya Institute to test whether the combination of the vaccines can lead to better effectiveness than two doses of the same.
Trials are scheduled to begin at the end of the year.
Russia’s state fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), plans to manufacture the new co-manufactured vaccine if it proves effective.
More than 50 countries have requested more than 1.2 billion doses of Sputnik V, said RDIF, which funded the vaccine.
Deliveries for the world market are made by RDIF partners in India, China, Brazil, South Korea and other countries.
The vaccine is sold in the international market for less than $ 20 per person.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s product also costs about $ 20, Moderna’s $ 33 per dose, and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine is available at a much cheaper price of about $ 4.