Russia said Tuesday its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine was 95 percent effective and would be cheaper and easier to store than some alternatives, as the global race heats up to develop a jab.
The announcement was the latest in a flurry of breakthroughs as several vaccine makers worldwide published preliminary data showing efficacy rates of 90 percent and higher.
Countries are hoping to begin inoculating their populations by year’s end or in early 2021 to stop a pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly 1.4 million people.
Russia was one of the first to announce the development of a vaccine in August — dubbed Sputnik V after the Soviet-era satellite — but before the start of final clinical trials.
In statement on Tuesday, the vaccine’s developers said preliminary data after trials involving thousands of volunteers showed “an efficacy of the vaccine above 95 percent” after a second dose.
Russia’s health ministry, the state-run Gamaleya research centre and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in the statement they expected the vaccine to record an even higher effectiveness after the next analysis.
“No unexpected adverse events were identified as part of the research,” it said, though some of those vaccinated suffered short-term effects including fever, weakness, fatigue, and headache.
– Less than $10 per dose –
The two-dose vaccine will be available on international markets for less than $10 (8.40 euros) per dose, they said, and will be free for Russian citizens.
It can be stored at between two and eight degrees Celsius (between 35.6 and 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit), they said, instead of the temperatures far below freezing required for some other vaccines.
Pharma giants Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their virus vaccine is 95 percent effective, while US company Moderna said last week early results showed its candidate was 94.5 percent effective.
Western experts have in the past expressed concern over Russia’s vaccine, fearing that its development could be rushed.