Covid vaccine: Russian’s Sputnik jab outperforms AstraZeneca in disease protection

Dr Hilary outlines 'worry' for rise in coronavirus infections

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The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, took a big risk when he approved the Sputnik coronavirus jab last summer, before it had even gone through the final safety trial. Thankfully, the test results – available now – have been positive. Its success has led Germany and France to enter talks with Russia about introducing the vaccine in their roll-out programmes. The Sputnik jab is already being administered elsewhere – in Argentina, Hungary and Pakistan.

For the final safety trial for the Sputnik jab, 14,964 people had received the jab; at the same time, 4,902 people have received a placebo.

The results demonstrated that the Sputnik jab was 91.6 percent effective at preventing a Covid infection.

This compares to around 70 percent for the AstraZeneca jab – more than a 20 percent difference.

Both vaccines utilised adenovirus vectors, but the Sputnik jab used two whereas the AstraZeneca jab deployed one.

The use of two different adenoviruses reduces the risk of the body developing an immune response to the first vector.

However, by the time the booster jab is administered, the immune system is fired up.

This might explain the difference in efficacy results for both of the jabs.

When it came to side effects of the Sputnik jab, 7,966 people reported side effects.

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A whopping 94 percent of them were considered “grade one” side effects, meaning they were mild.

Side effects of the Sputnik jab included headaches and pain at the injection site.

In addition, there were 45 adverse side effects in those who received the vaccine and 23 in the group that received the placebo.

However, the researchers said none of the adverse reactions were associated with the vaccine.

The study was well received by scientists, including Dr Penny Ward – a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London.

“This is a good quality study which confirms the clinical effectiveness of the Gamaleya combined viral vector vaccine,” she said.

Dr Peter English, a consultant in communicable disease control, declared the Sputnik jab was “another highly effective vaccine”.

However, Dr English did remark on Russia’s vaccine strategy, which was implemented before completing safety trials.

“Implementing a vaccine in a large population before seeing your phase III results is hugely risky,” he commented.

“The ethics of giving a product that has the potential to make you ill (or iller) is hugely different when you’re giving a vaccine to a large number of healthy patients, than when you are giving a medicine to a seriously ill patient, who might be prepared to take a risk.”

Although it worked out well for Russia, Dr English said the head-first approach “is definitely not to be recommended”.

Meanwhile, the Pfizer Covid vaccine – administered in the UK – had an efficacy rate of 95 percent, trumping both AstraZeneca and Sputnik.

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