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By Carlena Knight

With news that the Russian Sputnik V vaccine has been approved for use locally, a top health official is confident that it will be a huge boost to the ongoing public vaccination programme.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas spoke exclusively with this newsroom on Wednesday morning following the official commencement of the second dose rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, in which she was the first to receive the second jab.

The Sputnik V vaccine will now be the second Covid-19 vaccine that will be administered to members of the public in Antigua and Barbuda. This, Dr Sealey-Thomas said, “will positively impact the campaign”.

“Any vaccine that can protect the citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda will, of course, positively impact the campaign and once a vaccine is approved for use, according to the Ministry of Health and according to regional and international bodies, then it will be a boost,” Dr Thomas mentioned.

Although there has been no specific timeline for when the 1,000 doses of Sputnik V will be administered, Prime Minister Gaston Browne shared his hope that the vaccine will be put to use as early as next week.

Browne had criticised the Pharmacy Council, accusing them of dragging their feet on approving the vaccine which had been in the country for several weeks, but President of the council, Michael Joseph told Observer that the data relating to the Sputnik V vaccine was not the easiest to verify.

Browne said on the weekend that the government would also be ordering an additional batch of the vaccine.

Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, stated previously that the country requested 100,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine but added that it was premature to determine if that will be the overall amount received.

Sputnik V, developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Russia, was the first Covid-19 vaccine authorized for use.

Along with Russia, 64 countries have approved the vaccine thus far. They include Argentina, Iran, and India. The vaccine is currently being reviewed in the European Union by the European Medicines Agency.

The Sputnik V vaccine gives around 92 percent protection against Covid-19, and late-stage trial results published in The Lancet revealed it has also been deemed to be safe – and offer complete protection against hospitalization and death.

It is one of three vaccines that are more than 90 percent effective.

Based on an interim analysis of phase 3 clinical trial data, the most common side effects were: flu-like illness, headache, fatigue and injection-site reactions. Authors of the paper state that 45 out of 16,427 participants who received the vaccine reported serious adverse events, including deep vein thrombosis, hemorrhagic stroke, and hypertension. However, according to the paper, the independent data monitoring committee has confirmed that none of these were considered related to the vaccine.