Beware of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine – Immunologist cautions Ghana

Ghana should delay its vaccination programme using Russia’s Sputnik V until all safety concerns have been addressed, an immunologist Dr Yaw Bediako has advised.

His concerns follow the rejection of the vaccine in Brazil after the country’s health regulator found the jabs unsafe.

Health Minister Kweku Agyeman Manu revealed that Ghana was expected to receive 300,000 doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in a week to boost its vaccination programme.

The first phase of the vaccination was carried out with over 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from WHO’s COVAX facility.

But Dr Bediako, a scientist at the West African Center for Cell Biology Pathogen, wants health authorities to pause.

“We have to be very cautious given that this information (from Brazil) has come up,” he warned.

“The prudent thing is to wait for more investigations” until a green light from a reputable European agency before Ghana administers the Sputnik V vaccine to the public.

Dr Bediako explained, “Sputnik V has not been approved by any of the large continental bodies, ” including WHO, US FDA, and the European Medicines Agency.

But some countries have given the green light for usage, including Ghana, based on “documentation by the manufacturer and the clinical trials that were done”.

Dr Bediako pointed out that “Many of the countries that have approved it does not have the capacity to do detailed follow-up, so they basically base their assessment on what has been done elsewhere.”

Before the Brazilian update, he had also supported Sputnik V because data suggested that “it was okay, but the new data raises questions.”

According to him, the batch sent to Brazil might have been compromised, “so it may be a quality control issue and not that all the Sputnik V was bad.”

He said it could also be a problem at production, which still raises red flags because “we do not know which batch we (Ghana) is getting”.

Dr Bediako spoke in an interview with Joy FM on Thursday, April 29.

The development could affect the export of the vaccines as Russia aims to globalize the vaccines.

It could also widen the period for Ghana to scale up its vaccination programme as supply seems to have been disrupted.

Manufacturers in India are struggling to cope with demands as the country’s production has declined due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Information from Brazil

On Monday, the Brazilian health regulator Anvisa rejected importing the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine requested by state governors.

Tainted batches of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine sent to Brazil were found to carry a live version of a common cold-causing virus.

The agency said that analysis indicated that the adenovirus on which the vaccine is based has the capacity to replicate, which could cause sickness or death, particularly among those with low immunity or respiratory problems.

The agency said there were faults in all clinical studies of the vaccine’s development and insufficient data.

But Russia has rejected the assessment of Avisa.

“We need additional information on what this lack (of data) means because there’s already more than enough data,” Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a daily briefing.

“The contacts (with Brazil) will continue. If some data is lacking, it will be provided,” he added.



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