Putin Says Russia Faces Vaccine Production Problems, Slowing Rollout

President Vladimir Putin said Russia is facing problems in its push to mass produce Covid-19 vaccines, as the number of inoculations in Moscow slowed.

“The only question now is how to ensure the required volume of industrial production,” Putin said at VTB Capital’s Russia Calling! forum Thursday. “There are certain problems associated with the presence or absence of the necessary equipment.”

The Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, has run into problems ramping up production even as it already being used for front-line workers. Even so, Putin said mass inoculations could begin by the end of the year.

The number of Sputnik V vaccinations in Moscow has fallen by 20% to 25% from a peak of 1,000 a day, according to a person with knowledge of the issue who asked not to be identified because the information was not public.

Gamaleya director Alexander Gintsburg said 100 volunteers are getting the first shot each day, down from 500 to 600 earlier, because of capacity restraints, while those getting the second dose has reached about 600, Interfax reported.

Russian authorities have approved Sputnik V and another vaccine for widespread use and expect to allow a third soon, even though none of them have finished Phase 3 trials to prove they are safe and effective. Sputnik V’s developers began testing last month and said 40,000 people will participate.

Earlier, Reuters reported that Russia had halted vaccinations of volunteers for the Sputnik V trial, citing an unidentified representative of Crocus Medical, a group that is helping run the trial in Moscow.

Crocus Medical’s Alexey Butylin denied that clinical trials of Sputnik V were suspended, saying the vaccine supply is sufficient, according to a statement distributed by RDIF. The Russian Health Ministry said Phase 3 testing is continuing.

RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev said in July that Russia aimed to produce 30 million doses in 2020. That goal was dubbed “impossible” this month by Industry Minister Denis Manturov, who said a maximum of 2.3 million doses would be made.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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