(Refiles to add dropped letter in surname of BioIntegrator co-owner)
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) -Some Russian drugmakers say they will only manufacture the single-dose Sputnik Light COVID-19 vaccine for the time being because it is easier to make than Sputnik V, which combines two separately-produced shots.
This highlights the complexity of producing the second shot of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccination, which is made up of two different products which requires different manufacturing facilities and twice as many people to make.
That makes Sputnik Light, which is identical to the first Sputnik V shot and was approved for use by Russia in May, an attractive short-term solution.
Developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, the vaccine, which the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said is 79.4% effective against COVID-19 and costs less than $10 a dose, has been earmarked for export.
Vikram Punia, president of Pharmasyntez, told Reuters that his firm was waiting for registration to officially launch a new manufacturing facility once its first batches of Sputnik Light had passed quality control tests overseen by the developer.
Sputnik V consists of two different vectors, which are used as a first and then a booster shot, which are taken 21 days apart. The vectors are modified human common cold viruses, used to carry the genetic information into the body that triggers immunity-building.
Pharmasyntez also produced the second component of the Sputnik V vaccine, but had decided not to expand production because manufacturing requires significant resources, he said.
Punia had previously told Reuters that the two Sputnik V shots had to be produced separately due to the risk of contamination, which required more resources.
“We believe that it is advisable now to work with one component, to do a lot of it. We did not go on an industrial scale (with the second),” Punia said.
Pharmasyntez plans to make 1 million doses of Sputnik Light a week by the end of the third quarter or the beginning of the fourth quarter, he said, adding that the maximum production volume was 6-8 million doses per month.
Requests for Sputnik Light have already come from the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, Punia added.
The company will ask RDIF, which is responsible for marketing the Russian vaccine abroad, for permission to work mostly for export markets because “domestic (manufacturing) processes have already been worked out”, Punia said.
Russia’s BioIntegrator is also only producing Sputnik Light for now, its co-owner Andrei Ivashchenko said.
According to agreements with RDIF, production was organised to mostly supply foreign markets, he said, adding that work to arrange production of the second Sputnik V dose was underway.
“The virus is very volatile, and, in fact, it is necessary to build two factories, each with its own personnel, which should not intersect so that there is no cross-contamination of production”, Ivashchenko said.
(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Alexander Smith)