Trouble In Brazil For Russia’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Russia’s vaccine is facing problems in Brazil. Why did that happen?

Just In

Brazil has banned the import of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V. The five-person board of the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency has decided that consistent and trustworthy data required was lacking for approval of the requests from 10 states.

In a presentation explaining its ban, the country’s regulator said that the batches they tested carried a live version of a common cold-causing virus. The country’s scientists have also backed the decision to stop the import of Sputnik V.

What Went Wrong?

The Sputnik V vaccine uses two different adenovirus vectors, and they are adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) for the first shot and adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) for the second shot. Adenovirus vector is a virus that normally causes mild respiratory illnesses. However, in vaccines, the virus is genetically modified so that it cannot be replicated, and it is edited to carry the DNA instructions for human cells to develop the spike protein of the coronavirus. This trains the human system to be prepared in case it then encounters the real coronavirus.

But now, Brazil alleges that they have found the tested samples of the booster shot to be “replication competent.” This means that once the vaccine goes inside the body, the adenovirus can continue to multiply and that’s a big problem. If the virus has the capacity to replicate, it could cause sickness or death, particularly among those with low immunity or respiratory problems.

At present, we do not know for sure how this happened. Brazil’s regulator has said that this might have occurred due to a manufacturing problem called “recombination”. This means that the modified adenovirus had gained back the genes it required to replicate while it was being grown inside engineered human cells in a lab.

However, Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, has denied all these reports. The deputy director of the Gamaleya Institute, Denis Logunov, said, as quoted by AFP and mentioned by NDTV, “The statements I have read in the press have nothing to do with reality” and that the adenovirus vector was not able to replicate.

Zooming Out

Even though Brazil has banned the import of Sputnik V, the vaccine is administered in Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Hungary, Iran, Jordan, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam, among other countries.

The vaccine is coming to India as well. The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev told Reuters on Monday that India will receive a first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on May 1. RDIF said that it anticipates production of the vaccine in India to reach 50 million doses a month by the summer and to increase further. Right now, the more vaccines we have, the better it is for our country. But will this vaccine prove to be as safe and effective as it is said to be? That’s a question that can only be answered by time.

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