Sputnik V vaccine is Russia’s first approved vaccine which was developed and produced entirely domestically.
Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow came up with the Sputnik V which was funded by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the Russia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The Institution used common cold viruses in their vaccine prototype.
Notably, they opted for two different adenovirus vectors (rAd26 and rAd5) delivered separately in a first and second dose, 21 days apart.
Using the same adenovirus for the two doses could lead to the body developing an immune response against the vector and destroying it when the second dose is administered. Two different vectors reduces the chance of this.
To make the vaccine, the adenoviruses are combined with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which prompts the body to make an immune response to it.
Is Sputnik V vaccine effective?
The ongoing Sputnik V post-registration clinical trial in Russia involved more than 31,000 volunteers.
Phase 3 clinical trials of Sputnik V have been conducting in the UAE, India, Venezuela and Belarus.
According to the institution, the efficiency of Sputnik V against Covid-19 was reported at 91.6 per cent.
The figure is based on the analysis of data on 19,866 volunteers, who received both the first and second doses of the Sputnik V vaccine or placebo at the final control point of 78 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Sputnik V’s efficiency was validated by internationally peer reviewed data published in The Lancet.
But unlike other similar vaccines, the Sputnik jab uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and second dose – given 21 days apart.
Some 94 per cent of reported side effects were very mild (grade 1).
Four deaths recorded during the study were found not to be related to the vaccine.
How Russia is using the vaccine
On 2 December, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declared that mass vaccination using Sputnik V, provided free to citizens.
However, administration of Sputnik V began even earlier, employees of Gamaleya were among the first people to receive prototype doses in the spring of 2020 before phase I and II trials took place in the summer.
The first members of the public to receive a dose of Sputnik V were school and healthcare workers who were offered appointments through an online booking system.
According to the Russia’s health minister Mikhail Murashkos, as of 10 February, Russia had inoculated more than two million people with at least one dose of Sputnik V.
That’s nearly three vaccine doses per 100 people according to the latest available data (as a comparison, the UK has administered nearly 10 times as many).
What other vaccines does the institute have?
In May 2017, the Institute announced that it would deliver 1,000 doses of its vaccine candidate, GamEvak- Combi to Guinea for Ebola testing.
According to a Xinhua report, it was considered to be an approved Ebola vaccine, although GamEvac-Combi was licensed only in Russia, and did not have a multinational licence approved by the World Health Organization, as of November 2019.
Which other countries use the vaccine?
As well as Russia, the vaccine is being used in a number of other places including: Argentina, Palestinian territories, Venezuela, Hungary, UAE and Iran.
In a comment published alongside the Lancet paper, Profs Ian Jones and Polly Roy said: “The development of the Sputnik V vaccine has been criticised for unseemly haste, corner cutting, and an absence of transparency.
“But the outcome reported here is clear and the scientific principle of vaccination is demonstrated, which means another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of Covid-19”.
They pointed out the vaccine had good effect in all age groups, and reduced the seriousness of the disease after one dose.
Kenya declared the use of Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use only.