MOSCOW- Russia on Monday said it would be ready to provide booster shots to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant if needed and the Kremlin said jittery market reaction to the new strain was emotional and not based on scientific data.
The heavily mutated Omicron variant sent investors scurrying for cover on Friday and the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is likely to spread internationally, posing a very high risk of infection surges that could have severe consequences in some places.
Russia was quick to develop its two-dose Sputnik V vaccine last year and has also deployed a one-shot Sputnik Light vaccine, both of which have it says demonstrated high efficacy in trials, but are still awaiting WHO approval.
In addition, manufacturers have told Reuters that they have had difficulties producing the second dose of the vaccine, hampering efforts to boost output at home.
But Russia said on Monday its vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Institute, would likely work against Omicron and that it would be ready to produce hundreds of millions of booster shots if not.
"Gamaleya Institute believes Sputnik V and Light will neutralize Omicron as they have highest efficacy versus other mutations," Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the vaccine overseas, said via the official Sputnik V Twitter account.
"In unlikely case a modification is needed, we will provide several hundred million of Sputnik Omicron boosters by Feb. 20, 2022," Dmitriev said.
Earlier, the Kremlin said more data was needed before conclusions could be drawn about the new variant.
"We see that the reaction on markets is emotional, it is not based on scientific evidence because there is none yet," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "The whole world is currently trying to figure out how dangerous it is."
(Reporting by Dmitry Antonov and Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Angus MacSwan) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))