Russia has sought India's help to mass produce its first Covid-19 vaccine hailed by its scientists and authorities as effective and safe. Researchers elsewhere have raised concerns however about the speed of the Russian project known as Sputnik V.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that is backing the Sputnik V project said Russia was open to the local tests in India of the controversial vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.
“India and Russia can partner on producing the Russian vaccine because you have the best production vaccine capability,” Dmitriev said on Saturday.
“The made-in-India approach to produce the Russian vaccine, to produce other vaccines, I think will make India a big hub for production in the world and I think India will play a huge role in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic,” he told India Today TV station.
On August 11, Russia became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine.
Official talks held
Russia says it has already bagged requests for around one billion doses of the vaccine, named after the world's first satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.
India and Russia have already held a round of official talks, Dmitriev added.
According to other reports, developers of Sputnik V planned to test the vaccine with 40,000 people around Russia.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chief executive of one of India's biggest biotech firms, has said India will become the global producer of Covid 19 vaccines.
India currently produces three billion doses of vaccines and only a third is consumed locally while the rest is exported.
Three rival vaccine candidates in India
The Russian request came after India's Serum Institute, world's largest producer of vaccines by volume, registered for phase two and three clinical trials of a candidate developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, Britain's second largest drug-maker.
The institute will begin enrolling volunteers from Tuesday for the start of the tests at 17 pre-designated sites, officials said.
Company's executive director Natasha Poonawallah said she was hopeful the vaccine would be ready by the year end.
Three vaccines are currently at different stages of trial in India including a locally-developed candidate which is under development by India's Bharat Biotech.
Coronavirus infections near three-million mark in India
Experts such as Srinath Reddy from the Public Health Foundation of India said the domestic sector must gear up for industrial-scale production instead of waiting for final results to come.
“There is always a possibility that none of these might eventually work out but that doesn't mean there should not be any planning for procurement or distribution,” he told media.
Russia's request came as coronavirus cases in India on Saturday jumped closer to the three million mark, making it Asia's worst hit country and third behind the US and Brazil.
National health authorities reported 69,878 new infections in 24 hours to Saturday, taking the case tally to 2.98 million.
August has also seen a spike in fatalities with over a quarter of India's 55,794 Covid-19 deaths coming in the first 18 days of the month.
Health authorities warn a second wave of infection could follow because upcoming popular Hindu festivals would see large groups of people gathering at religious festivities.