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Republic

21 December 2020

Belarus to start COVID vaccinations in January

MINSK, 21 December (BelTA) – Belarus will start administering the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to its citizens in January, Healthcare Minister Dmitry Pinevich told reporters, BelTA has learned. 

“The first batch of the vaccine will arrive in January. We will start the vaccination program in January,” Dmitry Pinevich said.

He informed that after the comprehensive study of the application for conditional marketing authorization submitted by Russia to Belarus’  authorities, a decision was made to register the Sputnik V vaccine and allow administering it in Belarus. “The vaccine has been registered in the country; permits have been issued to allow its clinical use. The vaccine shots can already be administered in the territory of our country as part of routine work, not within the framework of clinical trials. Now we are discussing the further delivery of the vaccine and other matters,” Dmitry Pinevich said. 

In line with Belarus’ vaccination priority criteria, the first to get the shots will be healthcare professionals, teachers, retail workers and other people who contact with the general public. They will receive the vaccine free of charge.

According to the minister, “200,000 people are to be vaccinated at the first stage, with 2 million people vaccinated later”. “The figure might change, it all depends on the epidemiological situation,” he said. The minister added that a step-by-step strategy will be developed together with experts.

Answering the question whether negotiations with other vaccine suppliers are held, Dmitry Pinevich said that all options are being considered. “However, collaboration with Russian counterparts is a priority. After all, we are working on the possible localization of the vaccine production in the country,” he added.

The application for conditional marketing authorization of the Sputnik V vaccine was submitted to the Center for Examinations and Tests in Health Service in November 2020. An expert group was put together by the Healthcare Ministry to study the application. The group includes experts of the Center for Examinations and Tests in Health Service, the country’s leading specialists in communicable diseases and members of the national research centers. They scrutinized the materials on the pre-clinical trials of the vaccine. It was established that the Sputnik V vaccine passed all the stages of pre-clinical trials and proved its safety and efficacy. 

According to the press service of the Healthcare Ministry, 100 volunteers took part in the clinical trials of the vaccine in Belarus. They were randomly divided into two groups: the first group received the vaccine, and the second received a placebo. The two-dose coronavirus vaccine regimen provides for two injections spaced 21 days apart. Researchers assess antibody production (“humoral immunity”) and T-cell responses (“cellular immunity”) in volunteers.

As of 9 December, all the 100 participants in the Phase III clinical trials in Belarus received the first dose and 98 received the booster shot. Two volunteers were diagnosed with coronavirus infection during the mandatory testing for SARS-CoV-2 before getting the second shot. “The second injection was given to 98 people, the remaining two volunteers contacted with coronavirus cases between the first and second shots and got sick, so they did not receive the second injection,” Dmitry Pinevich noted.

The follow-up study will be in progress for 180 days (6 months), after which a final report will be prepared.

At the same time, the press service noted that vaccinated people develop a stable humoral and cellular immunity. This is achieved through the use of two different vectors delivering the drug and at the same time solving the problem of a possible neutralizing effect on the second injection.