Is the Russian COVID-19 Vaccine Really More Effective Than Pfizer’s?

Shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech announced on November 9 that their  Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective, Russia also issued a press release about their controversial Sputnik V vaccine, which was also developed to fight the coronavirus.

Sputnik 5 Russian Vaccine

Sputnik 5

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murasko said: “The use of the vaccine and the results of clinical trials show that it is an effective solution to contain the spread of coronavirus infections, a preventive healthcare tool, and the most successful way to fight the pandemic.”

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In the announcement by the Gamaleya Center, it is stated that the Sputnik V vaccine is 92% effective in preventing Covid-19. Better than the German-American candidate. Has Russia really done a better job?

The supporting data has not been released Yet

Like Pfizer’s announcement, the Sputnik V announcement is not accompanied by a scientific publication. The information presented here is only from a press release and should be used with caution.

These are provisional results of the still ongoing clinical phase III that Russia has announced. Currently, more than 40,000 volunteers are involved in the double-blind study in Belarus, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. India is still in Phase II-III. Of the 40,000 people, only 16,000 received the two doses of vaccine three weeks apart. The trial also included 20 people with confirmed cases of Covid-19. 92% efficacy was measured in these 20 people, 21 days after the first injection, and compared to those who received a placebo.

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In comparison, the Pfizer clinical trial included more participants, 43,538, including 38,955 who followed the vaccination protocol until the end (one initial dose and one booster vaccination after 21 days). The efficacy analysis was performed in 94 subjects with Covid-19 and seven days after the second injection, 28 days after the beginning of the protocol.

The results are consistent with much lower efficacy

The efficiency claimed by Pfizer seems to be more robust than that of Russia, given the number of volunteers used in the study. In the reactions from experts following the announcement of the effectiveness of Sputnik V, which was published on the Science Media Center website, the tone is cautious. Professor Stephen Evans of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explained: “There is considerable uncertainty due to the small number of cases used (20) of Covid-19. Follow-up is necessary since the data are consistent with a much lower efficacy (60%).

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The results announced by Pfizer this week are based on 94 cases (probably 8 in the vaccine group and 86 in the placebo group), so there is more certainty that the efficacy will be over 80%.

Sputnik V is of interest to many countries

However, Sputnik V has a significant advantage. Based on two modified adenoviruses, a vaccine technology less fragile than the one chosen by Pfizer, it does not need to be stored at -80°C.

The scientific publication of the results of the Phase III study will be “published by researchers at the Gamaleya Center in one of the leading peer-reviewed academic medical journals after an independent evaluation of the data by renowned epidemiological experts,” the press release states.

Russia did not wait for the final results to distribute its vaccine to 10,000 volunteers, health professionals, and people at risk. The vaccine is also attracting interest from other countries, according to the press release. 50 countries have expressed interest in the vaccine with a total of 1.2 billion doses already ordered. Russia seems to have found common ground with a South Korean pharmaceutical company to produce its vaccine at a rate of 150 million doses per year.

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expert reaction to announcement of interim data analysis of the phase 3 Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine trial



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