Sputnik V Covid vaccine 92% effective, Russia says

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The first data on the Russian Sputnik V Covid vaccine shows that it is 92% effective, according to its sovereign wealth fund.

The announcement follows results released earlier this week by vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech, who said their US-German jab was over 90 percent effective in preventing the disease.

Sputnik V’s interim results are based on data from the first 16,000 trial participants, who received both injections of the two-dose vaccine, said the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which supports the vaccine and markets it all over the world.

“We are showing, based on the data, that we have a very effective vaccine,” RDIF director Kirill Dmitriev said Wednesday, adding that this was the kind of news the developers would one day discuss with their grandchildren.

Russia is in the process of rolling out the vaccine for home use despite the fact that advanced trials are not yet complete.

The phase three vaccine study, developed by the Gamaleya Institute, is taking place in 29 clinics across Moscow and will involve a total of 40,000 volunteers, a quarter of whom will receive a placebo.

The chances of contracting Covid-19 were 92% lower among people vaccinated with Sputnik V than those who received the placebo, the RDIF said.

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said that “Sputnik data is yet more good news for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.”

“Although based on fewer cases than recent data from Pfizer, the vaccine appears to be as effective and, like the data from Pfizer, confirms and extends the results of the earlier phase two,” he added.

“We have yet to know the longevity of the response and its effectiveness in different age groups, but the result bodes well for other trials currently underway and for having enough vaccines in geographically diverse regions.

After Monday’s announcement that Pfizer’s vaccine was found to be very effective, the Kremlin issued a follow-up statement in which it said its own vaccine was just as effective.

“The emergence of another effective vaccine – this is good news for everyone,” said Oksana Drapkina, director of a research institute under the Russian Ministry of Health.

Russia first approved the vaccine after trying it on dozens of subjects in a non-blind study and before phase three trials, which are critical to establishing its safety and effectiveness.

The authorities have chosen teachers, as well as doctors, to receive the first available doses of the vaccine – but before all tests are completed.

This elicited a strong reaction from these frontline workers. A Russian teachers’ union has launched an online petition urging its members to categorically reject the vaccine on safety grounds. He said vaccination should not be made mandatory until clinical trials are completed.

Russia’s decision to grant early approval sparked intense skepticism from the international scientific community, leading to claims that Moscow had jumped the gun in search of political gain.

“It is a reckless and senseless decision,” said Professor François Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at UCL at the time. “Mass vaccination with a poorly tested vaccine is unethical.”

Moscow subsequently published data from its first clinical trials that demonstrated the safety and immunogenicity of the Sputnik V vaccine.

However, there was little indication of the vaccine’s suitability in people aged 60 and over. The ongoing phase three trial will seek to determine this.

Turkey has expressed interest in producing doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, Russia’s health ministry said on Wednesday after a phone call between the countries’ health ministers.

“The head of the Turkish Ministry of Health has expressed his interest in organizing the production of the Sputnik V vaccine at the facilities of Turkish pharmaceutical manufacturers, after carrying out toxicological studies, as stipulated by local legislation,” said the Ministry of Health in a press release.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko assured his Turkish colleague that he was ready to organize such tests, the statement said.

Turkey’s Health Ministry declined to corroborate this claim, but Health Minister Fahrettin Koca confirmed the two had a phone call in a tweet posted Tuesday night.

The Sputnik V vaccine is designed to elicit a response from two injections given 21 days apart each on the basis of different viral vectors that normally cause colds: the human adenoviruses Ad5 and Ad26.

It is named after the surprise launch in 1957 of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union.

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