KEY POINTS

  • Russia’s vaccine uses different genetic means than rival cocktails
  • The Sputnik V vaccine would be free for Russian citizens
  • Deliveries in early 2021 would add to an already-crowded market

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund announced Tuesday that its two-dose vaccine for COVID-19 is cheaper, yet just as effective as other cocktails.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine relies on the DNA from a non-developed virus, an adenovirus, to work, a practice first developed in the 1950s. Other vaccines under review rely on messenger RNA to work, a novel approach for drugs meant to combat viral infections.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, said the vaccine would be $20 less for the two doses than its rivals.

“Thus, Sputnik V will be two or more times cheaper than foreign vaccines based on mRNA technology with similar efficacy rates,” it stated. “For Russian citizens, vaccination with Sputnik V will be free of charge."

The vaccine under review in the U.S. from Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech would go for about $20 per dose. Moderna’s version would sell for as much as $37 per dose, according to CNBC. Both of those vaccines require two doses to work.

Initially criticized for registration as a vaccine without expansive clinical trials, Sputnik V is now in various stages of testing. As of Tuesday, the RDIF said there were no adverse events associated with its research trials though some receiving doses reported pain at the injection site and flu-like symptoms.

On the adenovirus, the RDIF said the method “completely eliminates the possibility of getting infected as a result of vaccination while also causing the body's stable immune response.”

Developed by the Gamaleya Center, a 129-year-old epidemiological research center in Moscow, the vaccine has seen more than 1.2 billion dose requests from the international community.

The vaccine claims a 91.4% efficacy rate at preventing COVID-19 detection after 28 days of injection and more than 95% after 42 days. That’s comparable to other vaccines, as is the expected early-2021 roll-out date.

Russia news agency Tass reported Tuesday that Russia’s capital recorded 5,838 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t have access to the vaccine until clinical trials are completed.

"We haven’t started mass vaccination yet,” he was quoted by Tass as saying. “And, of course, the head of state cannot take part in vaccination as a volunteer."

coronavirus vaccines worldwide G20 leaders will pledge to "spare no effort" in ensuring the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide. This picture shows nurses helping a COVID-19 patient at an Athens hospital. Photo: AFP / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI