India and Russia are in talks for collaboration to manufacture Sputnik V – the anti-coronavirus vaccine launched by Moscow earlier this month – and for approval to conduct phase three trials, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday. Bhushan is also the co-chair of the national Covid-19 vaccine administration task force.

“As far as Sputnik V vaccine is concerned, both India and Russia are in communication,” said Bhushan, according to ANI. “Some initial information has been shared while some detailed information is awaited.” Unidentified government officials said Russian Ambassador Nikolay Kudashev had contacted Principal Scientific Adviser K Vijay Raghavan for vaccine-making partnership. Meanwhile, the Indian embassy in Moscow is in talks with the Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology to get safety and efficacy data on the trials, reported ThePrint.

Sputnik V has been developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Russia is the first nation to claim to have developed a coronavirus vaccine. However, various scientists have raised questions on registering the vaccine before conducting the phase three trials. This phase takes several months to complete and requires participation from thousands of people. The World Health Organization has said that the real test would be in phase three trials, during which 30% protection at population level needed to be established.

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Last week, Russian researchers said the vaccine was currently in the phase three clinical trials. “More than 40,000 people in 45 medical centres are participating in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter clinical study of the efficacy, immunogenicity, and safety of the Sputnik V vaccine in Russia, simultaneously with the vaccination of volunteers from risk groups,” Russian researchers had said last week.

The phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of the vaccine candidate were completed on August 1. “All the volunteers are feeling well, no unforeseen or unwanted side effects were observed,” researchers from Gamaleya National Institute said. “The vaccine-induced strong antibody and cellular immune response. Not a single participant of the current clinical trials got infected with Covid-19 after being administered with the vaccine.”

The vaccine has received a registration certificate from the Russian Ministry of Health on August 11. Under emergency rules, it can be used to vaccinate the population in Russia. Mass production of the vaccine is expected to start in September.

Over 100 vaccines are being developed around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters. The World Health Organization data shows at least four vaccines are in phase three trials, including those from China and Britain.

Meanwhile, India’s tally rose to 32.67 lakh on Wednesday after the country registered over 67,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. The toll in the country now stands at 59,449. Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 2.38 crore people and killed 8,18,137 others, according the Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. Over 1.54 crore people across the world have recovered from the infection.

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