Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus will have to wait longer for a decision on emergency use by the World Health Organization.
A WHO official said on Wednesday the organization had been forced to postpone the vaccine review process because of the difficulties created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We were going to do inspections in Russia on March 7, and these inspections were postponed to a later date,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, an assistant director general of the WHO, at a press conference in Geneva. “The assessment and inspections have been influenced by the situation.”
dr. Simão said obstacles to booking flights to Russia and using credit cards were among the many problems the agency’s inspectors faced. After Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, most western countries closed their airspace to Russian planes and Mastercard and Visa suspended operations in Russia.
dr. Simão said a new timetable would be drawn up as soon as possible.
The two-dose Sputnik V was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of the Russian Ministry of Health. Russia began distributing the vaccine in the fall of 2020, and regulators in more than 70 countries have approved it for use, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which supported the vaccine’s development.
But Sputnik V has not yet been approved by the European Union’s main drug regulatory agency or the World Health Organization. Russians and other travelers who have received the vaccine have had a hard time entering the European Union or the United States.
Although Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin has called Sputnik a medical breakthrough, the country has repeatedly failed to follow the international procedure and provide all the data foreign regulators need to assess the safety of a vaccine passed through large-scale clinical trials. rushed to speed up its release in fall 2020. An EU health official accused the Russian government last fall of repeatedly delaying inspections of Russian facilities. But Russian officials insist the delays in the approval process were political.
Russia crossed a barrier in February 2021 with the publication in the British medical journal The Lancet of late-stage results of the trial showing that the Sputnik V vaccine was safe and highly effective. Even then, many countries, including Brazil and South Africa, rejected its use. Ukraine also does not recognize the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
United Nations-backed Covax program that distributes vaccines worldwide to low- and moderate-income countries may not use vaccines not approved by WHO
About half of Russian adults are fully vaccinated, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project.