The Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6 percent effective in protecting against symptomatic COVID-19 — on par with the currently approved Western jabs, according to a peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet Tuesday.
The data is from a Phase 3 study, with almost 20,000 participants across a number of hospitals and clinics in Russia taking part in the two-dose scheme. Starting from 21 days after the first dose, there were 16 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 in the vaccine group versus 62 cases in the placebo group, researchers reported. There were no cases of “moderate or severe” coronavirus infections in the vaccinated group 21 days after the first dose.
The clinical trial also analyzed people over 60, finding the jab to be 91.8 percent effective, based on 2,144 participants.
The issue of efficacy in older people has dogged the debate over the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine due to a lack of data. Last week German experts recommended that the shot be restricted to those under 65 until more data is collected.
The Sputnik V vaccine is based on an adenoviral vector, which involves using a modified version of the common cold to induce cells to produce the spike protein found on the coronavirus. The body then produces antibodies that target the protein, giving immune protection. The Russian-made jab is distinguished from Oxford/AstraZeneca’s shot — which is based on similar technology — because it uses two different viruses in each shot.
The study’s authors say the two-part vaccine strategy may “help create a more powerful immune response” because it lowers the risk of the body developing resistance to the jab, which would otherwise lower the efficacy of the second shot.
However, the study also notes that because cases of coronavirus were detected only once participants reported symptoms and were then tested, efficacy just covers the symptomatic cases of the coronavirus. More research is needed to assess efficacy for cases without symptoms, the study concluded.
In the EU, only Hungary has given its approval to use the Russian shot, although talks with the European Medicines Agency are ongoing. Serbia and Belarus have both green-lit the vaccine. A spokesperson for the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is responsible for promoting Sputnik globally, said that it’s aiming to begin the review of the jab with the EMA this month.
The clinical trial is ongoing, and aims to include some 40,000 participants in total.
In a written comment, Ian Jones, a professor at the University of Reading, and Polly Roy, a professor at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, noted that “the outcome reported here is clear,” despite all the criticisms over Sputnik’s lack of transparency and the “unseemly haste” of its development.
“Another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of COVID-19,” they said.