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Millions of people in developing countries from Latin America to the Middle East are also waiting for more doses of Sputnik V after manufacturing issues and other problems created huge gaps in vaccination campaigns .

Unlike other COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik’s first and second vaccines are different and not interchangeable. (Photo source: AP)

Esperita García de Perez received her first vaccine against COVID-19 in May. This, along with her Catholic faith, made her feel better protected against the virus, and she had hoped to receive her second injection of the Sputnik V vaccine developed in Russia a few weeks later. But the 88-year-old is still waiting. She was infected with the virus last month, and now her hopes for survival rest on the multitude of medications and home care she receives.

Millions of people in developing countries from Latin America to the Middle East are also waiting for more doses of Sputnik V after manufacturing issues and other problems created huge gaps in vaccination campaigns . One company estimates that Russia exported only 4.8% of the roughly 1 billion doses promised.

The head of the Russian state-controlled fund that invested in the vaccine insisted on Wednesday that supply issues had been resolved. Venezuela, which nominated Sputnik for the over 50s, ordered 10 million doses in December 2020 but got just under 4 million. Argentina, the first country in the Western Hemisphere to administer Sputnik, received its first shipment on December 25, but it is still awaiting a good chunk of the 20 million it bought.

“I had a long time now, several months, anxious because (the vaccine) was going to arrive, then it was not going to arrive, so I was going to have to wait, so I was not going to have to wait”, García de Perez said, adding that “you want certainty and hope it will happen.” Launched in August 2020 and proudly named after the world’s first satellite to symbolize Russia’s scientific prowess, Sputnik V has been approved in some 70 countries. Earlier this year, Russian state media ran triumphant reports of “taking over the world” as Moscow aggressively marketed it after rich countries procured vaccines developed by the West.

For a while, it was “the only game in town,” said Judy Twigg, professor of global health at Virginia Commonwealth University, but adds that Russia’s window of opportunity “to really claim the status of savior “of the pandemic is over. . Unlike other COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik’s first and second vaccines are different and not interchangeable. Manufacturing in Russia has been marred by reports of production difficulties, especially in the manufacture of its second component. Experts pointed out the limited production capacity as well as the fact that the process is very complicated.

Sputnik is a viral vector vaccine, which uses a harmless virus that carries genetic material to stimulate the immune system. Manufacturers cannot guarantee stable production because working with organic ingredients involves many variables in terms of the quality of the finished product.

Airfinity, a life sciences data analytics company, estimates that 62 countries have supply agreements for around 1 billion doses of Sputnik V, with just 48 million doses exported to date. He said it is not clear whether those doses are expected to be delivered in 2021 or over a longer period.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which finances and markets the vaccine abroad and has production contracts with 25 manufacturing sites in 14 countries, says it “is in full compliance with Sputnik’s supply contracts. V, including the second component, after a successful ramp-up. -up in August and September. Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in an interview with The Associated Press that all supply issues “have been fully resolved. All issues with the second tier are resolved in all countries. “There is not a single vaccine manufacturer in the world that has not had problems with vaccine delivery,” he said.

Although the West has relied heavily on vaccines made in the United States and Europe, such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, many developing countries have sought vaccines that are easier to obtain from China and Europe. Russia. The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency have not yet approved the use of Sputnik V.

In Argentina, delays in Sputnik deliveries and a wave of viruses in March led the public to pressure the government to speed up negotiations with other pharmaceutical companies. An initial agreement was for 20 million doses, of which the country had received about 14.2 million as of Tuesday. A subsequent agreement was signed for a local laboratory to produce the vaccine with the active ingredient shipped from Russia. It produced approximately 1.2 million first doses and some 3.6 million second doses. This month, Argentinian officials said the fund had requested the return of 1.3 million doses for packaging reasons. The doses have been replaced.

Virus-ravaged Iran received only about 1.3 million doses from Russia out of the 60 million doses it had been promised. Iranian news agency IRNA quoted the country’s ambassador to Russia as saying in April that the doses were to be shipped between May and November. There are indications that Iran has also battled a shortage of Sputnik’s second component. Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi last month urged those who received the first dose to receive a second injection of AstraZeneca, citing “uncertainty” as to when Russia will pass.

A similar problem appears to have prevented Turkey from fully deploying Sputnik. Authorities announced an agreement to obtain 50 million doses in April, with news reports indicating that the vaccines would be delivered within six months. By June, only 400,000 had arrived.

“Russia has wasted this opportunity,” said Twigg, Professor VCU. “I think in some cases it actually left Russia’s reputation in Iran, Guatemala, Argentina, maybe Mexico, maybe even a little worse than it would have been if she hadn’t done anything, or if she had waited and made more achievable promises of at the very beginning, because people are disappointed.Turkish Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca said in August that Turkey had not been able to deploy Sputnik because it did not have the second doses on hand.It is not known whether Turkey is still hoping to receive the second doses or whether it has simply abandoned the deployment.

“The whole process is a black box. There is no transparency, ”opposition MP Murat Emir said last month, asking Koca about the fate of Sputnik’s deployment, including whether Turkey would get reimbursement for the 400,000 unused doses. administered less than a million as of October 6. Sputnik’s delays in Argentina and Venezuela have prompted some people to get a different vaccine for their second dose, although scientists are still studying the effects of such mixing and pairing.

Dr Chris Beyrer, professor of public health and human rights at Johns Hopkins University, noted that early purchases of highly effective vaccines by wealthier countries made it more difficult for developing countries to protect their populations.

“A dose is better than no dose. So I think for countries that have already started with Sputnik it makes sense to go for the second dose, even if there has been a delay, ”he said. “But if they don’t get this vaccine at all, then they should definitely consider other vaccines.”

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