Experts endorse Sputnik V, hail govt’s plan to include more COVID-19 vaccines in rollout program

The level of virus-neutralizing antibodies of volunteers vaccinated with Sputnik V is claimed to be 1.3-1.5 times higher than the level of antibodies of patients who recovered from COVID-19

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently announced the government’s decision to roll out two more COVID-19 vaccines soon in India. As per experts, this is much needed to cater to India’s vast population. Given that safety and efficacy will be key to this decision, public health and medical experts underline the key elements that the Indian government should carefully consider, they say.
Of 150 vaccine candidates, there are very few vaccines that have cleared the last phase of clinical trials, which prove the efficacy. Interestingly, the Lancet, one of the renowned medical journals, has published the outcomes of phase III clinical trials of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. The journal states that the two-dose treatment of Sputnik V administered 21 days apart demonstrated efficacy of 91.6% against COVID-19. Sputnik V generated a robust humoral and cell mediated immune response.
This is timely and will support government in evidence-based decision-making, as it looks to approve two more vaccines. Meanwhile, the medical experts too have welcomed additional data and positive outcome about the safety and efficacy of Sputnik V in different subgroups.
“The decision of the Indian government to consider approval for more vaccines is a much needed and timely move, to 30 crore population. Genova Pharmaceutical, Zydus Cadilla and Sputnik V are among the candidates most likely to get approvals soon. I have heard positive outcomes for most of these candidates that gives me a lot of confidence. It is encouraging to see that The Lancet article confirmed positive outcomes and provided additional data about the safety and efficacy of Sputnik V in different subgroups. According to the study, efficacy of Sputnik V stands at 91.6%. Compare it with Covishield (India) which stands at 62.1%, Sinovac (China) at 50.4%, Sinopharm (China) at 79.3%. The Sputnik V vaccine is relatively easy to produce and transport amidst the expected shortage of vaccines globally and logistical problems in roll-out of vaccines that are temperature sensitive,” says Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, Chairperson of the Indian Academy of Public Health and Indian Alliance of Patients Group, Former Senior Advisor at UNICEF and Former Director at IIHMR.
“World Health Organization and the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research mentions that the vaccination against COVID-19 vaccine should give minimum 50% protection to be recognized as effective. The vaccines that recently cleared the phase III of clinical trials, however, have exceeded that expectation. Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V had passed the efficacy test with 90+% during phase I and II; Sputnik V however, is the first adenovirus vector vaccine to achieve the 90% efficacy seen with the two mRNA vaccines after phase III of the clinical trials. The peer-reviewed journal Lancet published interim analysis data of Phase III trials of the vaccine involving over 20,000 adults in Russia and found it 91.6% efficient. It also shows that a sub-analysis of over 2,000 participants aged over 60 years indicates that the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in the elderly as well. Over 98% of volunteers developed humoral immune response and 100% – cellular immune response,” says Dr. Singh, Public Health Expert.
“The paper, published in The Lancet, confirms successful results and provides additional information about the efficacy and the safety of this vaccine in different subgroups. From the public health´s point of view, the efficacy of the vaccine was very high. The safety profile was very good. The dissemination of this information is vital for informing the scaling up and rollout of this vaccine worldwide,” says Omar Sued, President of the society of infectologists, Argentina.
“The vaccine is 100% effective in preventing serious disease or death, which in the end is the most crucial parameter; we can all deal with the sniffles as long as we stay out of the hospital or the graveyard. Even after a single dose of this prime-boost regimen protection against disease was at 87.6%. Sputnik V is thus more effective than the AZ or J&J. Sputnik V, which, unlike the equally efficacious RNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna, can be stored in the fridge, will be of tremendous value to combat the global COVID19 pandemic,” adds Hildegund C.J. Ertl, M.D., Professor, Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, The Wistar
Institute, USA.
“The efficacy of any vaccine is dependent on the technological platform it utilized. Sputnik V is based on human adenovirus platform, a tried and tested one that was used to fight Ebola in the past. AstraZeneca vaccine on the contrary is based on chimpanzee adenovirus is not very popular among the scientific community. Moreover, vaccines such as Covishield and Sputnik V are fit for Indian terrain since they can be stored at +2º+8ºC in contrast with mRNA vaccines with much more extreme temperature regimen of -70º-20ºC.,” adds Dr. Debkishore Gupta, Consultant Clinical Microbiologist and Head of Infection Control, CK Birla
Hospitals, India.
While there are over 150 vaccines in different phases of development across the world, there are very few (discussed above) that have proved their efficacy against COVID-19. Nevertheless, safety and efficacy are the key aspects that the Indian government should be considering while choosing new vaccines for India.