A nurse prepares a dose of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: Natalia Kolesnikova/ AFP
A nurse prepares a dose of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: Natalia Kolesnikova/ AFP

Sahpra begins evaluation of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for use in SA

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Feb 26, 2021

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CAPE TOWN – The Russian-made coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V might be the next vaccine to arrive on our shores.

This comes after the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) confirmed that it has received documentation for the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Russia.

Sahpra chief executive, Dr Boitumelo Semete said they will now begin with evaluating the data provided for safety, quality and efficacy of the vaccine.

The vaccine, which was approved by Russia way back in August last year, has already received approval in 26 countries and has been administered to more than 2 million people worldwide.

According to the late-stage trial results published in the Lancet medical journal, Russia’s vaccine, seems more promising for South Africa as the vaccine gives around 92% protection against the coronavirus.

The journal deemed Sputnik V to be safe, saying it offers complete protection against hospitalisation and death. The results were based on data from 19 866 volunteers, of which a quarter received a placebo.

On Wednesday the Egyptian Drug Authority, announced that it had approved Russian Sputnik V, a month after the start of the vaccination campaign.

While scientists have welcomed the results; giving the world another effective weapon to fight the pandemic, in South African questions have been raised about why the government delayed the procurement of vaccines from Brics member states.

Speaking during a BroadReach Group webinar to address mass vaccination roll-out concerns and solutions, deputy director-general in the Department of Health, Dr Anban Pillay explained that the country was concerned about the adenovirus 5 vector used in the shot, which has in previous studies appeared to make people more susceptible to HIV infection.

“Government prioritised choosing vaccines that would be effective against the South African variant and prevent hospitalisations and mortality,” he said.

The Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, has also secured over 300 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

How does the Sputnik V vaccine work?

Sputnik V uses two different disarmed strains of the adenovirus, a virus that causes the common cold, as vectors to deliver the vaccine dose.

But unlike other similar vaccines, the Sputnik jab uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and second dose – given 21 days apart.

Developers said using a different adenovirus vector for the booster vaccination minimises the risk of the immune system developing resistance to the initial vector, so it may help create a more powerful response.

How does it compare to other Covid vaccines?

Sputnik V is one of three Covid vaccines worldwide with an efficacy higher than 90% in symptomatic cases. The other two are Pfizer / BioNtech (95%) and Moderna (92%).

Sputnik V can be stored between 2 and 8ºC.

Where else is it used?

According to the Russian Investment Fund which helped develop the vaccine, several countries around the world have ordered the Sputnik V.

Sputnik V has been given regulatory approval in 16 countries so far, including Hungary, which broke ranks with the EU last month by becoming the first bloc member to approve it.

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