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FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2021, file photo released by Imam Khomeini Airport City, Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines are unloaded at the Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport. Russia’s boast in August that it was the first country to authorize a coronavirus vaccine led to skepticism because of its insufficient testing on only a few dozen people. Now, with demand growing for the Sputnik V, experts are raising questions again, this time over whether Moscow can keep up with all the orders from countries that want it. (Saeed Kaari/IKAC via AP, File)

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While the government maintains that it will only use COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Professor of Public Health, Epidemiology and HIV/AIDS Dr Peter Figueroa says the Russian Sputnik V vaccine appears to be safe and effective.

Figueroa, a member of the WHO working group on vaccines, said the organisation is still reviewing Sputnik V by the WHO.

Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew, he said they anticipate that it would get approval and an emergency use listing.

According to The Lancet, the Sputnik V vaccine has approximately 92 per cent efficacy and uses two different vectors for the two shots. It also provides immunity longer than vaccines with the same delivery mechanism.

Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua are among the Caribbean countries using the vaccine, while Barbados has considered its use.

Figueroa said the Sputnik V was one of the first COVID-19 vaccines, and the national regulatory authority in Russia approved its use there. He noted that several countries, through their regulatory agencies, also approved the use of Sputnik V.

He noted that the data published in The Lancet concerning the phase three clinical trials were “quite positive.”

“It definitely appears to be effective and safe, but the process, for reasons not entirely clear, the pre-qualification process is not quite complete yet. But this vaccine has been used in a score of countries internationally, and we are not aware of any serious adverse events associated with it, so it does appear to be effective and safe,” Figueroa said.

To bring a vaccine to the market, developers and scientists must complete laboratory work, animal testing and clinical trials, where they test the vaccines on adults to ascertain efficacy and safety. He said the WHO relies on regulatory agencies like the US Food and District Administration, the European Medicines Agency or the United Kingdom’s Medicines & Healthcare products to review vaccine developers’ evidence of performance. Once an agency approves a vaccine, the WHO will accept the report to give an emergency use listing.

Figueroa said the Sinopharm vaccine went through a pre-qualification process from the WHO, where a team inspected the plant.

An independent group of experts then advised the WHO, based on its review of the results of the clinical trials, and recommended that it got an emergency use listing.

Yesterday the WHO reported that it found issues with how Russia produces the Sputnik V regarding the filling of vials at one plant. The concern was on the Pharmstandard-UfaVITA filling plant, one of four production sites that it reviewed.

However, the issue did not relate to the safety or efficacy of the vaccine itself.

Several studies point to a 97 per cent efficacy of the Sputnik V and its effectiveness against COVID-19 variants.

T&T currently has used AstraZeneca and Sinopharm, both WHO-approved vaccines, for the majority of the vaccinated population.