Declaring early results just two days after the American pharmaceutical company, it said out of 20 infections recorded so far only two were in people who had received a Sputnik V — the name of the country’s jab.
The country’s Minister of Health, Mikhail Murashko, heralded the results as revealing Sputnik V’s is an ‘efficient solution to stop the spread of coronavirus’.
But scientists questioned the findings — which were sent out in a press release by a London-based PR agency, warning there is ‘considerable uncertainty’ because of the small number of infections in the trial.
They also accused state officials of ‘mirroring’ the results of Pfizer, and one even said based on these early numbers the Covid-19 vaccine may actually only be 60 per cent effective.
Pfizer revealed on Monday that its experimental jab is 90 per cent effective, with the news sparking hope of an end to the pandemic. Britain has already bought 40million doses of the pharmaceutical giant’s vaccine.
Russia today insisted its coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, is 92 per cent effective. But the claim has drawn criticism from some scientists who warn it ‘mirrors’ Pfizer’s announcement
SPUTNIK V: THE FACTS
Sputnik V, Russia
Sputnik V is safe, according to the Kremlin
When will it be ready?: ‘Imminently’. The Russian medical research institute and Russian defence ministry have developed this vaccine. But it has faced serious criticism both inside and outside Russia because results from its human trials are yet to be published. It also hasn’t cleared large human trials, with researchers only launching one involving 40,000 volunteers on 26 August. Scientists say the vaccine has been rushed without proper checks, and could pose a risk to those taking it. The Kremlin began appealing for volunteers for the vaccine this week after a first batch was produced, according to the TASS news agency.
How does it work?: The Russian vaccine works by carrying a piece of the coronavirus genetic code into a participant via another virus. It is hoped this will produce an immune response.
Has the UK secured doses?: No. Countries lining up to try the vaccine include Mexico, which has secured 32million doses, and Kazakhstan, which is set to buy 2million.
How much does it cost?: The price of the vaccine is yet to be revealed.
Russia claimed the vaccine was effective in a press release sent by London-based PR firm Powerscourt, meaning scientists are not able to double-check the results.
Pfizer, which is working with German firm BioNTech on its vaccine, also decided to release the early efficacy data through a press release.
Sputnik V was the first vaccine in the world to gain emergency approval, when it was signed off in Moscow in August. But it has yet to be rolled out in other countries.
The preliminary results are based on whether 16,000 volunteers had become infected with the virus 21 days after receiving their first shot.
The vaccine requires two shots 21 days apart to become effective, officials said, meaning the early trial results were released before the vaccine course had been completed.
Around half of the individuals in the trial received the vaccine, and the other half a placebo.
Trials are split this way to reveal whether a vaccine is effective. If there are fewer cases among people who received the vaccine, this suggests it protects them from getting ill.
But infections will always occur in people that have received a vaccine because no jab is 100 per cent effective.
There were no adverse effects reported for the Russian vaccine, it was claimed.
But those receiving it reported pain at the injection site and flu-like symptoms for several days afterwards, similar to other vaccine side effects.
In the Pfizer trial, scientists waited seven days after the vaccine course had been completed in 40,000 volunteers, who required two shots given between 21 to 28 days apart, before reporting preliminary results.
This means they have substantially more reliable data than the figures published today on the Sputnik V vaccine.
Nonetheless, should the Sputnik V be proved to be effective Pfizer’s vaccine has one major disadvantage – it needs to be stored at -70C (-94F), whereas the Russian vaccine can be stored in refrigerators.
This is similar to other vaccines including Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), which can be kept in a fridge.
Professor Stephen Evans, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said there is ‘considerable uncertainty’ in Russia’s claim because of the small number of Covid-19 cases reported in the study.
He warned that Russia would need to continue the trial for longer and record more Covid-19 infections to get reliable results.
After performing his own analysis on the data, he added that it suggests the Russian vaccine may in fact only be 60 per cent effective.
Any number above 60 per cent for a vaccine is a major breakthrough, as it means it could trigger ‘herd immunity’ in a population.
This is when enough people have immunity from a virus that it is unable to spread through a community and infect and hospitalise those who are most at risk, reducing the need for lockdowns or emergency bolstering of health services.
Professor Brendan Wren, also from the LSHTM, added that the results appeared to ‘mirror’ those of Pfizer, both in terms of percentage success of the vaccine and in terms of the sample size.
The Sputnik V vaccine is in clinical trials involving more than 40,000 individuals
ANTIVAXXERS SPREAD FALSE CLAIM A VACCINE HAS BEEN IN PRODUCTION FOR YEARS
Antivaxxers are spreading false claims that a Covid-19 vaccine has been in production for 15 years after yesterday’s Pfizer’s announcement, while others have vowed they will not let their children be vaccinated against the virus.
Yesterday medical companies Pfizer and BioNTech revealed that initial results from a massive clinical trial suggested nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected by it.
While further tests to prove the jab’s safety need to be carried out, many have taken to Facebook or Twitter to share wild conspiracy theories about the jab.
Several mothers on the Save Our Rights UK Facebook page declared they would not be taking the vaccine and nor would their children.
Another user claimed it was a ‘mass sterilisation programme’, while some even called for action against the injection.
Lara Crabb, who gained attention over the summer as she filmed herself not wearing a mask in public, asked followers if the vaccine had been in the works for 15 years.
She claimed it could be connected to ‘Agenda 2030,’ a conspiracy theory that the New World Order is trying to depopulate the earth through a series of mandatory vaccines.
Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, urged the Russian state to remember that this is ‘not a competition’.
‘I worry that these data have been rushed out on the back of the Pfizer/BioNtech announcement earlier in the week,’ she said.
‘The Sputnik data are based on only 20 cases of Covid-19 in the trial participants, compared to more than 90 cases in the earlier trial.
‘This is not a competition. We need all trials to be a carried out to the highest possible standards and it is particularly important that the pre-set criteria for unblinding the trial data are adhered to avoid cherry picking the data.
‘Anything less than this risks a public loss of trust in all vaccines, which would be a disaster.’
Other scientists, however, sounded a cautious note of optimism and said they would await the publication of the full trial data.
Professor Ian Jones, an epidemiologist from the University of Reading, told MailOnline that it was possible the vaccine could work because it is based on the common cold virus – adenovirus – which is used to deliver a piece of Covid-19 genetic code to the body.
‘To be fair I don’t see why it should not be an effective vaccine as, in principle, all the adenovirus vaccines do the same thing,’ he said.
‘The low numbers would be the only definable issue right now, meaning the efficiency number could drop as they accrue more data.
‘But for now I think it’s a case of credit when credit is due, whatever the past experience.’
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor of medicine at the University of Leeds, added that he felt it was right to be ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the vaccine and wait for official data to be published.
‘However, again it will be necessary to see the complete data set before making confident assessments of how well this, or other SARS-CoV-2 vaccines work and full assessment of safety must be made.
‘In particular, we must understand whether these prevent infection itself or just severe symptoms, as well as if vaccines might continue shedding infectious virus. In addition, efficacy in different age groups, ethnicities and in patients with compromised immune systems will need to be determined before we can decide how best to deploy these hopefully world-changing medicines.’