Sputnik V vaccine trials going ahead
Moscow trial clinics restarted vaccinating new volunteers against COVID-19 last week. Earlier, several clinics had reported a break in vaccination, which was attributed to focusing on giving those already vaccinated a second dose. Russia intends to produce over 2 million doses by the end of 2020, as the initial plan of 30 million doses turned to be overly optimistic.
Last week, Russia resumed the vaccination of new volunteers in its trial for the country’s flagship COVID-19 vaccine after a short pause, reports Reuters citing staff at six of 29 trial clinics in Moscow. At the end of October, some clinics claimed a pause in the vaccination for new volunteers amid high demand and a shortage of doses. According to Director of the Gamaleya Research Institute Alexander Gintsburg, the uptake of new volunteers only slowed because of a decision to focus on giving those already vaccinated a second dose.
However, at the beginning of last week, queues of people were waiting for a pre-vaccination medical examination at several Moscow trial clinics. “Vaccination has resumed. Starting on Monday, we are doing the first component [of the two-dose jab] again,” said a staff member at Moscow Clinic Number 46. A health worker from another Moscow clinic confirmed that they had resumed vaccination adding that “quite a lot of people” came to get inoculated.
According to the initial plan, 40,000 people were supposed to be vaccinated during the trials. As of 11 November 11, over 20,000 volunteers had received the first of the two doses, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is backing and marketing the vaccine. Over 16,000 volunteers had received both doses. “The clinical trial is going according to plan. At the same time, a trial involving volunteers aged over 60 is continuing,” commented Aide to the Minister of Health Alexey Kuznetsov.
Meanwhile, Russian officials and vaccine developers have previously flagged challenges in ramping up output of Sputnik V, says Reuters. In October, Minister of Industry Denis Manturov drastically revised initial vaccine production plans downwards. Instead of 30 million doses claimed to be produced by the end of 2020, the vaccine developers are now expected to produce only over 2 million doses. Russia was facing challenges scaling up production due to problems with equipment availability but hoped to start mass vaccinations by the end of the year, said President Vladimir Putin last month.