Russia on Tuesday announced that the cost of one dose of its Sputnik V vaccine will be less than $10 (approximately Rs 740) for international markets. The vaccine is administered in two shots. For Russian citizens, inoculation will be free of cost.
The pricing announcement came hours after Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, RDIF, and developer Gamaleya National Center said that new clinical trial data showed that Sputnik V was 91.4% effective on day 28 and over 95% effective on day 42. The trial was based on 39 confirmed cases and 18,794 patients.
Two vaccines, one by Pfizer/BioNTech and another by Moderna, were recently shown to be more than 90% effective in early analyses, raising hopes that the global pandemic can be contained by next year. Pfizer, which has completed its trial, submitted an application on Friday for emergency authorisation of the vaccine. Another vaccine candidate developed by the Oxford University and AstraZeneca on Monday showed an average efficiency of 70% among Covid-19 patients.
Moscow, however, claimed that its vaccine will be “two or more times cheaper” as it is not a mRNA vaccine like the ones developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acids which translate DNA information into proteins involved in bodily functions. There are currently no licensed mRNA vaccines, making its procurement a challenge for developing countries like India, which lack the required infrastructure.
The Moderna vaccine will be priced between $25 (approximately Rs1,854) and $37 (approximately Rs 2,744) per dose, depending on the amount ordered by governments, company’s Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel has said. The price of the Russian vaccine is also cheaper than the vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, which costs 15.5 euros per shot (roughly Rs 1,362), but is more expensive than the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca , which will be sold in India at a maximum of Rs 1,000 for two necessary doses.
“It’s more than twice as cheap as other vaccines that have the same efficacy levels,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, told a briefing, according to Reuters. “Right now, Sputnik V is the cheapest vaccine with an efficacy level above 90% in Phase III clinical trials”.
Russia plans to produce around 2 million doses of Sputnik V this year, and Moscow and its foreign partners have the capacity to make “more than a billion doses” starting from next year, Dmitriev added. He said this would be enough to vaccinate more than 500 million people,
The supplies for the global market would be produced by partners in India, Brazil, China, South Korea, Hungary and other countries, the Kremlin official said, adding that over 50 countries have already made requests for more than 1.2 billion doses of Sputnik V.
Dmitriev said that Moscow is also trying to overcome the ultra-cold storage requirements by producing a “new freeze-dried form of the vaccine”, which means it can be stored in a fridge and is easier to distribute. This, he said, would make the vaccine attractive for countries in Africa and Asia.
Experts have already raised concerns on whether the existing infrastructure in India would be able to handle the storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine which needs to be kept at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius or below.
India has not signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine yet so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country. Availability of the vaccine in India will be subject to approval by domestic regulators, and the Indian government agreeing to purchase them. So far, many other nations including the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and Israel have made deals to buy millions of doses of the vaccines.