Russia Wants to Vaccinate Nearly 1 in 10 Globally This Year
(Bloomberg) -- Russia is ramping up overseas output of its Covid-19 vaccine, pledging to supply shots to almost one in ten people on the planet this year even as it’s produced only a tiny fraction of that so far.
“We have capacity to provide the vaccine to 700 million people outside Russia this year,” Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, which backed Sputnik V’s development and is in charge of its foreign roll-out, said in an interview Wednesday. “The biggest producers will be India, China and South Korea.”
Russia’s success in persuading so far around 50 countries to approve the shot has bolstered its global ambitions, with several million doses already delivered to Latin America led by Argentina and Mexico.
But the production roll-out has gone slower than RDIF initially forecast and in Russia, take-up of the inoculation has lagged. Dmitriev wouldn’t comment on current output levels at the top foreign producers other than to say they’re “substantial.”
At the moment, the U.S. gives more shots every two weeks than Russia has produced of Sputnik V since the start of the epidemic.
So far, international deliveries remain relatively small as Russia races to boost output. Within Russia, about 13 million two-dose sets have been produced, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said last week. RDIF won’t release data on how many have been shipped abroad and the Kremlin says exports aren’t cutting into local supplies. Public statements from recipient countries put the total at less than 4 million.
Sputnik, whose efficiency rate is on a par with that of leading Western vaccines, is being used in about 30 countries, according to RDIF. That compares to at least 64 for the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, of which 95 million doses have already been administered globally.
Despite the political push, Russia isn’t offering discounts on Sputnik for low-income countries. In Africa and Latin America, Sputnik sells for the same price of roughly $10 per dose as in the rest of the world.
Earlier this week, Russia pushed ahead with a drive to manufacture Sputnik in the European Union. RDIF announced a deal to produce it in Italy and discussions with France and Germany. The 27-nation bloc is currently examining a request to approve the use of Sputnik. A high-ranking Kremlin official warned Friday of intelligence about a looming negative information campaign against European countries that have registered the Russian vaccine, state-run news agencies reported.
Altogether, RDIF has production agreements in 10 countries, Dmitriev said.
Russia has so far inoculated 5 million people, or around 5 shots per 100 adults compared to more than 36 in the U.K., almost 30 in the U.S. and 10 in the EU, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. It would take until 2022 to vaccinate 70% of Russians at the current pace. Officials say they hope to get close to that target by August of this year.
RDIF notes that almost twice as many people in Russia - 2.5 million - have gotten both doses than in the U.K. The prescribed interval between shots is longer in the U.K., however, and the share of the population to be fully vaccinated is still greater than in Russia.
Dmitriev said he expects “exponential growth” in domestic production to accelerate the vaccination at home. By late June, between 40 million and 50 million, all of those who want the vaccination, should have received it, he said, without explaining what would cause the surge in demand.
So far, the roll-out has been plagued by shortages in some regions and the reluctance of Russians to take the jab, even though it’s offered free of charge, according to opinion polls.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.