The first batch of 150,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine against deadly coronavirus has arrived in India as the country battles an unprecedented new wave of Covid-19 cases.
"The first batch of #SputnikV vaccine arrives in Hyderabad, India," read a statement shared on the vaccine's official Twitter page on Saturday. "That's the same day the country starts mass Covid vaccination drive covering its entire adult population."
In his brief statement, India's foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the first batch comprises 150,000 jabs of the vaccine manufactured in Russia. According to officials, three million additional doses of the Russian vaccine are scheduled to arrive this month and another five million by June. New Delhi has asked Moscow to boost supply of the vaccine as it wants to vaccinate as many Indians as possible in the shortest time as the country is battling a catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 cases.
Russia began exporting its first vaccine to India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had "an excellent conversation" with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 28, in which the two leaders decided to strengthen communication between the countries' foreign and defense ministers. In a Tweet, Prime Minister Modi mentioned that the partnership between the two countries in producing the vaccine will help the world battle Covid-19.
Moscow and New Delhi will jointly manufacture more than 700 million doses of the Russian vaccine this year, with a plan to gradually increase the production by up to 850 million jabs annually.
Developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Sputnik V uses harmless viruses as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body. The two-dose vaccine uses the unique technology of combining two different vectors based on human adenovirus and should be administered 21 days apart.
Despite a wave of skepticism towards Russia's first vaccine against coronavirus over its incomplete clinical trials, the Russian-made jab showed an impressive 92 percent efficacy, according to late-stage trial results published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal. The interest in the Russian-made vaccine has surged abroad after it was ranked as one of three top vaccines along with Pfizer and Moderna that have an efficacy of over 90 percent against the coronavirus disease. On April 12, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved the use of the Sputnik V vaccine in the country, becoming the 60th country to approve it.
"The efficacy of the Sputnik vaccine is among the highest in the world, and this vaccine will also be effective against new strains of Covid-19," Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev said in a Tweet on Saturday.
The vaccine campaign comes at a time when the second wave of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in India, with over 350,000 cases being confirmed each day for much of the last week, and the death toll crossing the 3,500-mark for the past three days. The total number of Covid-19 cases in India has exceeded 20 million, making the world’s second-most populous nation only behind the United States, which accounted for a total of 33 million Covid-19 cases. Sputnik V will be the third Covid-19 vaccine India has given the green light to after approving Covaxin, a vaccine developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech, as well as Covishield, which is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India in collaboration with Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Earlier, two Russian planes loaded with oxygen concentrators, lung ventilation equipment, bedside monitors, medicines and other essential pharmaceutical items needed to fight Covid-19 arrived in India as part of a growing global effort to help the country battle its deadly Covid-19 wave.