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WHO to debate Russian Sputnik V vaccine

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WHO to debate Russian Sputnik V vaccine

Photo: AFP/Ditimar Dilkoff

World Health Organization (WHO) scientists will conclude a second day of discussions today on Russia’s “Sputnik V” COVID-19 vaccine.

Developed by the Russian Health Ministry’s Gamaleya Center, the vaccine received approval from Moscow before the initiation of phase three trials and despite a lack of firm data concerning its efficacy. The vaccine has been approved for use in fourteen countries.

Expect today’s discussions to prioritise the availability of scientific data. Gamaleya recently sent WHO materials concerning its interest in selling the vaccine to UN agencies. If that information is deemed sufficient, WHO scientists will estimate an assessment date for the vaccine.

Despite its uncertain efficacy, Sputnik V—which has a lower cost per dose than mRNA-based vaccines—will likely remain attractive to countries lacking access to better-assessed vaccines. Also apparent is the vaccine’s ability to drive discontent with institutions such as the EU—discussing Hungary’s acquisition of Sputnik V, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijarto cited European sluggishness in vaccine procurement as determinative. Such utility will likely increase as lower/middle-income states in Africa and Latin America gain experience working directly with Moscow on global health initiatives, while shifting US policies towards international institutions have undermined certainty in those institutions’ ability to deliver results.

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