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Russia's Sputnik Backer Pushes For Its Use In UN's Global Vaccine-Distribution Program

Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriyev (file photo)
Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriyev (file photo)

The head of the Russian sovereign fund that has backed development of Sputnik V says Russia is ready to provide up to 300 million doses of the vaccine to the COVAX initiative, the UN-backed program designed to share vaccines more evenly around the world.

That's despite the lack of World Health Organization (WHO) approval of Sputnik V and production issues that are drawing concerns worldwide.

Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriyev and the WHO had different views on October 13 on when the Russian vaccine would get the WHO's stamp of approval, which is required before the vaccine can be used in the COVAX program.

Dmitriyev said the Russian vaccine will be made available to COVAX once it is approved by the WHO. He expects the approval to come in the next two months.

"We believe that we can supply COVAX around 200 million doses a year --200 to 300 million," Dmitriyev said in an interview with the AP. "We just need the WHO approval to work with COVAX."

But Mariangela Simao, the WHO's assistant director-general for access to health products, wouldn't make any commitment to a timetable.

She said the approval process for Sputnik V was currently on hold, and once the legal procedures are sorted out, "we will reopen the assessment, which includes the submission of the data in the dossier...and resuming the inspections in the sites in Russia."

The timeline will depend on when the WHO gets the legal procedures done and then it will be able to assess what would be the next step and how long it will take, Simao said at a briefing in Geneva.

Sputnik V is already being used in 70 countries around the world. Some government officials, particularly in Latin America, have expressed concerns they aren't getting the vaccine's second shot in time to properly inoculate their people.

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Also on October 13, the WHO says the number of global coronavirus cases fell in the last week, continuing a downward trend that began in late August.

The agency said there were about 2.8 million new cases and 46,000 confirmed deaths in the last week, a drop of 7 percent and 10 percent respectively. Europe reported a 7 percent rise in cases, while all other world regions reported a decrease.

WHO says Europe also had the biggest rise in deaths in the previous week, with 11 percent more COVID-19 deaths. WHO says the highest numbers of new cases in Europe were reported in Britain, Turkey, and Russia.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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