While the US gears up for its largest-ever immunization campaign after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone said that he has received the initial jab of a vaccine developed by Russians—Sputnik V.
Stone, who made a documentary on Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017, revealed that he had received the first shot of Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology. The American film director also said that he will return to Russia to receive the second shot of Sputnik V.
The developers of the vaccine claimed that Sputnik V is 91.4 percent effective based on interim late-stage trial results. But the phase three trial, involving thousands of people, to prove that this Coronavirus vaccine protects people from COVID-19, is yet to be completed. While the studies are going on in Russia, India, Belarus, Venezuela, and in the United Arab Emirates, some experts are still not confident about Sputnik V.
But the 74-year-old Stone, who took the first shot of Sputnik V, said that he heard "good things" about the vaccine and he wondered why the Russian vaccine is being ignored in the West. He got the jab when the vaccine is only offered to Russian citizens who are aged between 18 and 60 in the current immunization effort.
According to early reports, Stone has a long relationship with the Russian president, and both the men had praised each other in the past. The documentary, "The Putin Interview", was released in 2017 that was described by Daily Beast as a "wildly irresponsible love letter" to Russia's president, while the New York Times called it, "Flattery, but little skepticism".
Even during his appearance on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," his response to Putin related questions made it clear that he is not a critic of the Russian president. Even when the documentary was released Putin called him "an unusual and very profound person and a very balanced and comfortable interlocutor."
Named after the Soviet satellite which triggered the space race, Sputnik V has been used to vaccinate around 200,000 Russian people who are at risk. The vaccine was first registered for emergency use in August this year and this move made Russia the first country in the world to approve a Coronavirus vaccine for widespread use. The vaccine is delivered in two shots, administrated 21 days apart. Recently, the vaccine developers claimed that it is likely to offer two-year long protection against the SARS-CoV-2 caused disease.
Russia's sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said that over 50 countries have made requests for more than 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine. According to reports, Sputnik V will be sold to the international market at less than $10 per dose, while Pfizer-BioNTech's and Moderna's two-dose vaccines cost about $20 and $33 per dose respectively.