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EXCLUSIVE -Russia's COVID-19 vaccine trial paused as clinics run short of shots

by Reuters
Thursday, 29 October 2020 14:51 GMT

By Polina Ivanova and Gleb Stolyarov

MOSCOW, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Russia has temporarily stopped vaccinating new volunteers in its COVID-19 vaccine trial due to high demand and a shortage of doses, a representative at the firm running the study said on Thursday, in a setback for Moscow's ambitious plan to roll out the shot.

At eight of the 25 Moscow clinics hosting the trial and inoculating volunteers, staff told Reuters the vaccination of new participants was on hold, with several saying they had used up the doses allocated to their clinics and referencing a large influx of volunteers.

"It's related to the fact that there's colossal demand for the vaccine and they are not producing enough to keep up," said the representative of Crocus Medical, the contract research organisation helping run the trial in Moscow together with Russia's health ministry.

According to provisional information, vaccinations will restart by around Nov. 10, he said.

The shortage of doses is the latest challenge to Moscow's ambitious and unorthodox vaccine plan, which has seen the government give regulatory go-ahead for the shot - and launch the mass inoculation of the general public - before full tests for safety and efficacy were complete.

The Moscow City Health Department, which oversees the clinics where the trial is taking place, did not respond to a request for comment.

Moscow's Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, known at Sputnik-V, and is also manufacturing it, directed questions to the health ministry.

Alexei Kuznetsov, aide to Russia's health minister, said the human trial of the vaccine continued. "The target of 40,000 vaccinated volunteers will be met," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was facing challenges scaling up production of the vaccine due to problems with equipment availability, but hoped to start mass vaccinations by the end of the year.

An initial estimate of 30 million doses expected to be produced by the end of the year was revised down earlier this month by the industry minister to just over two million doses.

The Gamaleya Institute is gradually joining forces with private Russian pharmaceutical firms, which are gearing up to mass produce the shot at their plants.

At three of the Moscow clinics running the trial, staff said they had run out specifically of the first component of the two-dose jab. The second is injected after 21 days.

"Vaccination is temporarily suspended. We are only injecting the second component," a staff member at Moscow Clinic #109 told Reuters, adding the first component ran out around a week ago.

Of the planned cohort of 40,000 volunteers, around half have now received the first component, Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya Institute, was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency on Monday.

Of these, 7,000 people have also received the second component, he was cited as saying.

"Try again next week!" prospective volunteers were told at a vaccination trial centre in Moscow's Chertanovo district, a Reuters reporter heard staff announce on Tuesday. (Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Polina Ivanova, Vladimir Soldatkin, and Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Anton Zverev, Josephine Mason and Mark Potter)

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