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21 Dec, 2020 09:43

Creators of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine sign Putin-backed deal with UK pharma giant AstraZeneca in bid to boost efficacy

Creators of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine sign Putin-backed deal with UK pharma giant AstraZeneca in bid to boost efficacy

Scientists at Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with British firm AstraZeneca on Monday, signaling the start of cooperation between the two in the fight against the coronavirus.

The partnership, originally proposed by the Russian team over Twitter and announced at the start of December, will see the pharma giant trial its Covid-19 vaccine candidate in combination with the Russian-made Sputnik-V jab.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with drug company bosses via video link on Monday morning, congratulating them on reaching the agreement. He said that “this attitude towards partnership today can serve as a good, convincing example of combining scientific forces, technology, investment for a common goal – to protect the lives, health and safety of millions of people on the planet as a whole.”

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Clinical trials will now determine whether AstraZeneca’s formula can produce better results by incorporating elements of Sputnik V. The Russian offering, its creators say, has proven effective in 95 percent of participants given two shots as part of clinical trials. In November, AstraZeneca said its own vaccine had shown a 70 percent efficacy average. It is hoped that trials using the two different formulas together will improve that figure.

Speaking last week at his annual end-of-year press conference, President Putin told journalists he was optimistic about the prospects of a partnership, welcoming the fact that “Astra Zeneca is ready to work with us,” and adding that “it’s very pleasing when specialists join forces like this. The result will be good not only for our citizens, but for the whole world.”

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Russia has already begun a program of mass immunizations with the Sputnik V vaccine, which made headlines in August when it became the first jab against Covid-19 to be registered anywhere in the world.

On Friday it was reported that more than 9,000 people had already received their first injection in Moscow alone, and the list of those eligible to sign up for the vaccine has now been expanded. Previously, only medical workers and teachers were eligible to sign up, but those working in transport, energy, industry and the media can now register to receive the jab.

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