Hungary and the United Arab Emirates are the latest countries to give emergency use approval for Russia’s Sputnik V, in what Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev has described as a testament to the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
Though Sputnik V has received several regulatory approvals to date — including from a number of Latin American countries —Hungary is the first nation in the European Union to approve the vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund expects more regulatory approvals from Mexico and a few countries in Asia and Africa in the coming weeks.
While the fund is engaging with African and Asian countries, Dmitriev said it prefers to work with countries directly rather than through COVAX, the global initiative set up to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking at a press briefing Thursday, he confirmed that the fund is in discussions with COVAX, which he said is experiencing some issues with funding and vaccine availability, but it plans to follow the approach it has used to date, which is to directly supply countries with Sputnik V vaccine doses.
“We will be working with COVAX, but definitely we will not be substituting COVAX for the approach we've been using till now to basically supply vaccines to countries directly,” Dmitriev said.
There is a generally high acceptance of a potential COVID-19 vaccine among respondents in BRICS countries, except in Russia.
A number of countries that are part of the COVAX Facility — both the self-financing ones and those eligible for support under COVAX’s advance market commitment — are in discussions or have negotiated deals with the vaccine manufacturer. Brazil and Bolivia are set to receive 10 million and 2.6 million doses of the vaccine, respectively. Guinea also started inoculating some of its officials with the vaccine last month. In Thursday’s briefing, Dmitriev said the fund will also be having high-level discussions with Philippine officials next week.
“COVAX will be a small part of our portfolio. Most of the approach will be direct, but we'll be happy to work with COVAX and hope that COVAX resolves the issues it is facing right now,” he said.
Dmitriev added that the new regulatory approvals are a testament to the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. In a press release in December, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology announced that the vaccine had shown 91.4% efficacy based on data of its phase III clinical trial involving over 22,000 participants. But experts are waiting for the results to be published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal for independent scrutiny.
Dmitriev said that the research data will be released soon — even as early as next week — adding that the World Health Organization also wants to see the results published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“WHO received all of the information on Sputnik [V], and we are going through their process, and we will be … working with them and giving them all of the information,” he said.