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‘Great news’: TGA approves Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine for travel purposes

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“This is not only great news for people who have been in a separated family situation, but also for people who would like to come to Australia from Russia for business,” Alexey Goncharov, executive secretary of Australia Russia Dialogue, told SBS News.

“And this is great news for students, too. Many steps have been undertaken by various organisations to increase the number of Russian students who come to study in Australia, so for them it is indeed very good news,” Dr Goncharov said.

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Australia requires non-citizens entering the country to be fully vaccinated, and the TGA on Monday said it has received more information about the Russian vaccine’s efficacy.

“The TGA obtained additional information demonstrating this vaccine provides protection and potentially reduces the likelihood that an incoming traveller would transmit COVID-19 infection to others while in Australia or become acutely unwell due to COVID-19,” it said in a statement.

“The recognition of Sputnik will expand options for the return of international students, travel of skilled and unskilled workers to Australia, and travel by business people and elite sports people to our country.”

Data from the Russian government indicated two doses of Sputnik V provides 98 to 100 per cent protection against hospitalisation or death and was an average of 89 per cent effective against symptomatic infection.

Sputnik V is currently approved for use in more than 70 countries, including India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates, which means people from those nations can also now go to Australia, Dr Goncharov said.

Dr Goncharov is hopeful the TGA’s decision will soon be followed by a decision from the government that’ll make it easier for Russians to travel to Australia.

Under current overseas travel rules, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents as well as citizens of only a handful of other nations, such as New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, can arrive in Australia.

The travel exemptions also extend to some “business” and “talent” categories. The full list of those who can enter Australia can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.

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The TGA has currently approved only four vaccines for use in Australia: Comirnaty (Pfizer), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), Spikevax or Takeda (Moderna) and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen (Janssen).

However, the following six vaccines, not approved for use in Australia, have been recognised by the TGA for the purposes of international travel: Coronavac (Sinovac), Covishield (AstraZeneca – Serum Institute of India), BBIBP-CorV for people under 60 years of age on arrival in Australia (Sinopharm China), Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) and Sputnik V (Gamaleya Research Institute).

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While approving Sputnik V, the TGA noted the studies were conducted prior to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“Real-world studies assessing the effectiveness of a range of vaccines against Omicron are currently underway in many countries,” it said.

The single-dose “Sputnik Light” is not currently recognised by the TGA.

Additional reporting by AAP.

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