By Krishna N. Das
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is expected to grant emergency use authorization for Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine this month or next, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the shot abroad, told Indian news agency ANI on Tuesday.
India has already approved two other vaccines for emergency use and has inoculated nearly 4 million people since mid-January in what the government touts as the world’s biggest immunization campaign, aiming to vaccinate over 300 million people by August.
"India is a key partner in terms of production of vaccine and we expect that there'll be a restricted emergency use order for the Sputnik V vaccine...this month or next. After that we will be able to start our vaccine delivery to India," RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev was quoted by ANI as saying.
RDIF is likely to apply for Indian authorization this month, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to talk to the media.
The Sputnik V vaccine was given a green light on Tuesday by scientists in Russia after its scientists said it was found to be 92% effective based on peer-reviewed late-stage trial results.
In January an independent board in India found the Sputnik V shot to be safe in a mid-stage trial. RDIF said the late-stage clinical trials also showed strong efficacy and safety.
India has recorded 10.8 million COVID-19 infections and over 154,000 deaths from the pandemic - the world's second and third highest tolls respectively. But the true infection figure may be dramatically higher based on a new survey indicating that more than half of New Delhi's 20 million people may have been infected with the coronavirus.
India is the world's largest vaccine maker and a Russian official said in December that it was likely to be able to produce 300 million doses or more of Sputnik V vaccine in 2021.
India's Hetero Biopharma has already announced a deal with the RDIF to make more than 100 million doses of Sputnik V and Indian drugmaker Dr. Reddy's, which has conducted clinical trials, will help in distributing the vaccine..
On Tuesday, India reported 8,635 new cases of COVID-19 which is the lowest since June 2, 2020.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das, Writing by Nupur Anand; Editing by Mark Heinrich)