NAMIBIA – Namibia has discontinued the use of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine following concerns raised by their neighboring country, South Africa, the health ministry has said.
South Africa earlier this week said it would not approve Sputnik V due to concerns it could increase the risk of HIV infection among men, a claim the vaccine’s developer says is unfounded.
The Namibian health ministry said in a statement that following South Africa’s decision it was suspending, with immediate effect, use of the shots until the formula is listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
“The reason for discontinuation of the administration of the vaccine is being done out of abundance of caution that men who received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV when exposed to it,” said the ministry.
Namibia had taken delivery of a Serbian donation of 30,000 Sputnik doses, out of which less than 120 have been administered so far.
South Africa’s health products regulator on Monday said it would not authorize use of Sputnik based on earlier studies testing the safety of a modified form of adenovirus—a type of virus that causes respiratory infections—known as the Ad5 and contained in the jab.
The regulator said two previous studies, one in South Africa and one in the Americas, found a heightened risk of HIV infection among men linked to the Ad5-vectored vaccine.
In both trials, administration of an Ad5-vectored vaccine was associated with enhanced susceptibility/acquisition of HIV in men, the regulator said last week.
Russia’s Gamaleya Centre, which developed Sputnik V, says any allegation of a link between the vaccine and HIV is unfounded.
Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against COVID-19 in use globally, the Gamaleya institute says. It said more than 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.
“While adenoviruses, including ad-5, are one of the most frequent causes of light common flu, there is no evidence of increased risk of HIV infection among human population after (the) common cold,” the institute said.
“These inaccurate speculations that have since been refuted relate to unsuccessful clinical trials of another HIV vaccine by another manufacturer that simply did not seem effective enough.”
A meta-analysis of six clinical studies and their long-term follow-up in 7,092 participants showed there was no statistically significant increase of HIV-1 infection among adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccine recipients, it said.
Namibia said the suspension would last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.