The production of Sputnik V, the COVID-19 vaccine granted emergency use authorisation, has been launched in India, said a joint statement issued by Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and pharmaceutical firm Panacea Biotec on May 24.
The first batch of doses produced at Panacea Biotec’s facilities at Himachal Pradesh's Baddi will be shipped to the Moscow-based Gamaleya Centre for "quality control", the statement said.
Full-scale production of the vaccine is due to start this summer, it stated, adding that the company’s facilities "comply with GMP standards and are prequalified by the WHO (World Health Organisation)".
Panacea Biotec's Managing Director Dr Rajesh Jain said the launch of Sputnik V production is a significant step in India's battle against the virus. "Together with RDIF, we hope to help bring a sense of normalcy back to people across the country and around the world," he added.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
RDIF's chief executive officer Kirill Dmitriev said the domestic production of Sputnik V supports India's efforts to "leave behind the acute phase of coronavirus as soon as possible".
"The vaccine will also be exported at a later stage to help prevent the spread of the virus in other countries around the world," he added.
Sputnik V was registered in India under the emergency use authorisation procedure on April 12, 2021. As announced in April, RDIF and Panacea have agreed to produce 100 million doses per year of Sputnik V.
The RDIF has also partnered with the Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy's Laboratories for localised production and distribution of the vaccine.
To date, Sputnik V has been registered in 66 countries globally with a total population of over 3.2 billion people. The efficacy of Sputnik V is 97.6 percent based on the analysis of data on coronavirus infection rate among those in Russia vaccinated with both components of Sputnik V from December 5, 2020, to March 31, 2021.
The vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors and uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, "providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots", the statement said.Sputnik V is the third COVID-19 vaccine that would be administered to the beneficiaries across India. The country has so far conducted its inoculation drive using Covishield and Covaxin, manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and Hyderabad's Bharat Biotech Limited, respectively.