India on Saturday received the first batch of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines from Russia. The Customs in Hyderabad expedited the clearance of the consignment.

Sputnik V is the third vaccine to receive emergency-use authorisation in India after the Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. The Russian vaccine came at a time when India has been battling a devastating second wave of the pandemic.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet that the consignment consisted of 1.5 lakh doses of the vaccine. “This third option will augment our vaccine capacity and accelerate our vaccination drive,” he said.

In September 2020, Dr Reddy’s and the Russian Direct Investment Fund entered into a partnership to conduct clinical trials of Sputnik V, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, and the rights for distribution of first 10 crore doses in India.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund also has contracts with other Indian firms, including Gland Pharma and Hetero Biopharma, to produce doses of the vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, has said that more than 85 crore doses of the Sputnik V vaccine will be produced in India annually.

Sputnik V had shown a 91.6% efficacy in late-stage trials, according to results published in February. No serious adverse events were found to be linked with the vaccination. However, the trial did not include efficacy data of the vaccine for new variants of the coronavirus.

The vaccine is administered in two doses separated by 21 days and requires a minus 18-20 degree Celsius cold chain to remain stable. Efforts are underway to develop a freeze dried version of the shot, which will stay stable in the 2 to 8 degrees Celsius temperature range.

Meanwhile, the third phase of vaccination, under which all adults are eligible to be inoculated kicked off on Saturday. However, the process could be started only in small pockets of a handful of states. Several of the remaining states have deferred the rollout of the third phase and many of them are unsure of when they would be able to start the process as the manufacturers have not provided them with a supply schedule.

So far, more than 15.35 crore shots have been administered, while over 2.72 crore beneficiaries have received both their doses, according to government data.