RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin told BRICS leaders on Tuesday that coronavirus vaccines developed in Russia “work effectively and safely” and urged the group of emerging economy nations to “join forces” for the mass production of the shots.
Putin’s remarks come after early results of large studies of several experimental Covid-19 vaccines, including a Russian one, were announced. The BRICS grouping is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which bankrolled the development of Sputnik V, has agreements with India and Brazil to conduct trials of the jab, and with pharmaceutical companies in India and China to produce it, the Russian leader said.
“I think this is very important,” he added.
Moderna said on Monday its vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. Last week, Pfizer said its own vaccine looked 90 per cent effective.
Two days after the Pfizer announcement, developers of the Russian-made vaccine Sputnik V said early data from a large trial suggested the shots were 92 per cent effective. However, the conclusion was based on a much lower number of infections recorded during the trial – 20 compared to 94 in Pfizer’s case and 95 in the study of Moderna’s vaccine.
Russia came under a wave of international criticism for giving Sputnik V regulatory approval in August, since the shots have yet to complete advanced studies among tens of thousands of people necessary to establish the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. However, two months later, Russian authorities approved another jab after early stage studies.
Addressing the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa at an online summit Tuesday, Putin stressed that “coordinating collective BRICS measures” to tackle the pandemic is the alliance’s priority. He also said Russia was ready to cooperate with its BRICS partners “in the manufacturing and use” of the Russian-made vaccines.
“There are Russian vaccines – they work effectively and safely,” Putin said. “It is very important to join forces for the mass production of these products for wide circulation.”
The president noted that two different vaccines have been approved in Russia, and a third one was “in the works”.
Other BRICS leaders also spoke about cooperation on the vaccine front. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India’s vaccine production capacities will be important “for the interests of humanity”, and Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing “will actively consider” providing its vaccine to BRICS countries “if there is need”.
In a declaration issued at the summit, the BRICS nations said they recognised “the role of extensive immunisation against Covid-19 in preventing, containing and stopping transmission in order to bring the pandemic to an end” and vowed they would “work to ensure” that when a vaccine becomes available, “it is disseminated in a fair, equitable and affordable basis”.
In Brazil on Tuesday, Butantan Institute director Dimas Covas said the biomedical centre would receive the first doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine this week.
Covas told a congressional committee monitoring Brazil’s Covid-19 response that preliminary results of the trials Butantan is conducting in Brazil indicate the vaccine, called CoronaVac, has an excellent safety profile.
He said Butantan expects to have 46 million doses ready in January pending approval of the vaccine by Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa.
Covas said 10,000 volunteers have already received about 19,000 shots of the two-dose vaccine, and another 2,000 people have still to be included in the trials, conducted at 16 centres linked to Brazilian universities.
Anvisa suspended the trials for a day and a half last week after the death of a volunteer, which police reported as a suicide and Butantan said had no relation to the vaccine.
The temporary halt had no affect on the clinical trials, Covas said, adding that Butantan has a “very good understanding” with the head of Anvisa, Antonio Barra Torres, who also testified before the committee.
Butantan and Anvisa have sent experts to China where they are in a two-week quarantine before they can visit vaccine facilities, they said.
(Additional reporting by Reuters)