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)