Russia’s controversial coronavirus vaccine is 92 per cent effective at blocking symptomatic illness, early trial results suggest
Just 16 out of 16,500 people given the two-dose jab – dubbed Sputnik V – developed symptoms, while no-one died from the disease or needed hospital treatment.
In a huge boost to Russia’s immunisation ambitions, the vaccine was also found to be 74 per cent effective at blocking Covid after just a single dose.
For comparison, Oxford University’s vaccine is roughly 70 per cent effective at blocking symptomatic Covid after two doses, while the efficacy for jabs by Pfizer and Moderna is 95 per cent. But directly comparing results from trials done in different countries is difficult because trial methods and standards vary.
British scientists reacting to the findings, published in the prestigious journal The Lancet, said the UK should be ‘more careful about being overly critical about other countries’ vaccine designs’.
Sputnik V, named after the former Soviet space satellites, has been shrouded in controversy since Vladimir Putin green-lit its approval for mass-use in Russia last August before any human trials had been conducted. But the jab has still not actually been rolled out nationwide.
Top UK scientists and politicians denounced the move because there was no evidence to prove the vaccine worked or was safe and accused Putin of trying to advance his political agenda.
The following month British spies accused the Kremlin of launching a cyber attack on Oxford University scientists who developed an almost identical vaccine, raising fears Moscow was stealing research from the UK.
The UK Government, which has spent £2billion on pre-orders for 360million vaccines doses made by seven different developers, has so far made it clear it has no plans to purchase supplies from Russia.
But that hasn’t stopped more than 50 countries, including swathes of South America, India, South Korea, Belarus and Hungary, from placing orders.
At about £7 per doses, Sputnik is one of the cheapest Covid vaccines on the market – for example Pfizer’s jab costs about £15 per shot, while a dose of Moderna’s is £25. Oxford’s is still the cheapest, at £3 per dose.
Sputnik V, named after the former Soviet space satellites, has been shrouded in controversy since Vladimir Putin green-lit its approval for mass-use in Russia last August before any human trials had been conducted.
The Russian jab is what is known as an adenovirus vaccine – which uses a weakened virus that causes the common cold that has been modified not to trigger illness.
Researchers have already used this technology to produce vaccines against a number of pathogens including flu, Zika and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers).
After the vaccine is injected into a person’s arm, the adenoviruses enter human cells and travel to their nuclei, the chamber where the cell’s DNA is stored.
The vaccine are programmed to carry the genetic code of the coronavirus’s ‘spike protein’, which Sars-CoV-2 uses to invade the body.
It uses this genetic code to trick the body into mounting an immune response, priming the immune system to attack coronavirus if the real virus infects the body.
Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, said: ‘This Russian Sputnik V adenovirus-vectored vaccine… appears even more effective after two doses (91.6 per cent) than the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine standard dose regimen…
‘So despite the earlier misgivings about the way this Russian Sputnik V vaccine was rolled out more widely – ahead of sufficient Phase 3 trial data – this approach has been justified to some extent now.
‘Such pandemic-related vaccine rollout compromises have, to be fair, been adopted in the UK vaccination programme also – with the extended intervals between first and second doses, as well as the approval of the Oxford-AZ vaccine for over 55 yr olds – despite little formal clinical Phase 3 trial data to support this.
‘So we should be more careful about being overly critical about other countries’ vaccine designs/ programmes.
‘In this context, I look forward to seeing similar data/reports on the Chinese Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccines – as well as hearing how the Oxford-AZ and Russian Sputnik V teams might be collaborating to enhance and maintain the performance of their Ad-vectored Covid-19 vaccines.’
Dr Alexander Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading, added: ‘The vaccine trial results are coming thick and fast as high infection rates in areas where phase 3 clinical trials provide increasing amounts of data that together encourages us to believe that vaccines will soon be able to drive down the human cost of Covid-19.
‘The more trial data we have, the better placed we are to understand how to make and use vaccines- so these results are welcomed. There are some exciting details in this.’