MOSCOW (RUSSIA) – Russia on Saturday approved a third coronavirus vaccine for domestic use. Labelled CoviVac, it will be produced by the Chumakov Centre, announced Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on state TV, though large-scale clinical trials of the shot. Deputy Prime Minister Golikova also announced on Saturday that Russia will produce 88 million vaccine doses in the first half of this year, including 83 million Sputnik V doses.
Russia has already approved two COVID-19 vaccines, including the Sputnik V shot, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute.
Sputnik V was approved in August and late-stage trials began in September. Mass vaccination was launched in December, after preliminary trial results showed the vaccine to be 91.4% effective.
Since then, more than two million Russians have been vaccinated with at least the first dose of Sputnik V, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Feb. 10.
Rollout of a second vaccine, developed by the Vector Institute in Novosibirsk, is beginning.
“Today, Russia is the only country to have already three vaccines against COVID-19,” Prime Minister Mishustin said.
Unlike the Sputnik V vaccine, which uses a modified harmless cold virus that tricks the body into producing antigens to help the immune system prepare for a coronavirus infection, the CoviVac vaccine is a “whole-virion” vaccine. This means it is made of a coronavirus that has been inactivated or stripped of its ability to replicate.
“The vaccine we have developed… reflects the whole history of Russian, as well as global, vaccine science,” the Chumakov Centre’s director, Aidar Ishmukhametov, said on Saturday.
The advantage, according to virologist Alexander Chepurnov, cited by outlet Lenta.Ru, is that CoviVac includes all elements of the virus, creating a broader immune response that is likely to protect against any variants.
The shot has already been tested for safety on 200 people aged between 18 and 60, Ishmukhametov told the state-run Vesti-24 news channel in late January.
This early-stage trial began on Sept. 21 last year, according to the state clinical trials register. It showed no side-effects, including no rise in temperature, Ishmukhametov said.
Mid-stage trials to test volunteers’ immune responses were ongoing, he said at the time.
Only a placebo-controlled, large-scale trial could ascertain effectiveness, he added. This is due to begin now that the go-ahead has been granted.
The first 120,000 doses, however, will be produced and released to the national inoculation programme in March, Mishustin said.
Then, the Chumakov Centre will produce around half a million doses per month on its platforms, Ishmukhametov said on Saturday.