Moscow [Russia], September 21: Russia has signed preliminary agreements with more than 10 countries across the Middle East, South America and Asia, which could give Russia “a valuable economic and political leverage” internationally.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian officials said that they have secured deals for the vaccine to be delivered in countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Brazil. They also say that it is in various stages of talks” with 10 other countries as well. Moscow has received requests or “expressions of interests” from various countries for 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine.
The vaccines would be manufactured overseas and circulated globally as soon as November. However, the shot would require local regulatory approval before distribution.
‘Sputnik V’ was approved by the Russian authorities on August 11 even though there was skepticism among the Western countries about the “speed with which it was registered”.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian researchers completed only small-scale tests on 76 volunteers before securing approval, The data from these early trials had shown that the shot was “safe to use” and generated an immune response but experts say that large-scale testing trials are necessary to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine.
While Russia is expected to undertake mass vaccinations of its own population by the end of 2020, China has injected “hundreds of thousands” of people with its own vaccine. The experts too have raised concerns over the rush to use vaccines — which have not completed testing fully — as the widespread use of the ineffective vaccine could lead to “a renewed spread” of COVID-19.
Officials in the US have also indicated that it is unlikely to use a Russian or a Chinese vaccine, in wake of the doubt over testing procedures.
Analysts say that Russia can use the vaccine as “a soft power tool” to draw counties in its orbit.
“The view here is that the vaccine could win Russia some hearts and minds in the non-West and boost its geopolitical leverage,” The Wall Street Journal reported quoting Vladimir Frolov, a former senior Russian diplomat, and Moscow-based political analyst.
Russia aims to manufacture close to 30 million doses by the end of this year for its own population. It has been hit hard by the pandemic with over 10 lakh COVID-19 cases (according to Johns Hopkins University).
The Wall Street Journal further reports that Russia is transferring the technology to manufacturing hubs in India, Brazil, and South Korea from which the vaccine would be distributed.
As per the preliminary agreements, India would receive 100 million doses while Bahia in Brazil would receive 50 million doses, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said. However, Russian officials have not disclosed how many countries apart from the four that have agreed to the supply accords.
In August, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said many countries “are interested in various forms of cooperation, including joint vaccine development, clinical trials, procurement, domestic production on their territory and humanitarian aid.”
Russia already announced agreements to conduct clinical testing of the vaccine in the UAE, Saudi Arabia along with Egypt and Belarus. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico wants to take part in the large-scale testing of the vaccine with 500-1000 volunteers but the final decision on the test and eventual vaccine approval lies with the health authorities.
The US, European Union, Japan, and the UK, according to the Wall Street Journal, have agreed to purchase around 3.7 billion doses of the shot from Western drugmakers which ties up most of the “immediate” global vaccine manufacturing capacity leaving developing nations at risk of unable to secure supplies.
Russian officials state that there is a “strong demand” for the Russian vaccine from the developing countries.
“We will focus on saving people in Latin America, Middle East and Asia, where most of the requests come from because these people are not thinking about politics to stifle Russia and to constrain Russia, but they want to protect their citizens,” Dmitriev said reported by The Wall Street Journal and added, “We have people who are begging to have the vaccine because they looked into the science and they understand that it works.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that the Philipines would give priority to Russian and Chinese vaccines because, he said, in the Western countries, “it’s all (about) profit”. Dmitriev said that the fund is “only looking to recoup its investment” in the vaccine and not making a profit.
However, Russia has not disclosed the rate it would charge for the vaccine shot. (ANI)