Russia is selling millions of doses of its homegrown Sputnik V vaccine abroad, making it a major supplier of a shot that could give Moscow a valuable slice of the global Covid-19 vaccine market and potentially earn Russia geopolitical clout in the developing world.
Argentina is the first major country outside Russia to begin inoculating with Sputnik on a large scale. However, the rollout there has highlighted questions concerning the lack of transparency about the efficacy of the state-sponsored Sputnik V, which has stirred some distrust among Argentines about its safety.
Moscow approved Sputnik V for domestic use in August before finishing trials. Trial data released since then has shown Sputnik was 91.4% effective in protecting people from Covid-19, and a peer-reviewed study is expected to be published in the coming weeks. Around a million Russians have received the shot.
Other countries have rushed to buy a vaccine that is cheaper than Western alternatives. Sputnik V, named for the Soviet satellite launched into orbit during the Cold War, ranks third in the world by doses ordered by middle- and low-income countries, according to Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center, ahead of U.S. drugmakers Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. and China’s vaccines. Eight countries outside Russia have authorized the shot for emergency use.
Still, Sputnik V hasn’t been approved by Western health authorities or received authorization from the WHO, which many developing countries rely on for vetting vaccines. Russia has initiated talks with the European Medicines Agency about approving the shot in the European Union and has applied for WHO authorization.