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Sputnik V Vaccine: Two Years Since the Russian Breakthrough in Fight Against COVID-19

© Sputnik / Alexander Kryazhev / Go to the mediabankAmpules with of Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease are pictured during a vaccination at River Park hotel, in Novosibirsk, Russia.
Ampules with of Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease are pictured during a vaccination at River Park hotel, in Novosibirsk, Russia. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.08.2022
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As new variants continue to emerge, and new waves of infections continue to pop up across the globe, the Sputnik V vaccine remains in demand. Throughout the pandemic, the Russian vaccine and its derivative, Sputnik Light, proved its safety and high effectiveness against all known variants.
It has been two years since the Russian Gamaleya Research Institute presented the world's first vaccine against COVID-19 in 2020 - Gam-COVID-Vac, better known under its commercial name, Sputnik V.
Although the jab was met with significant skepticism abroad, including even claims of not being thoroughly tested and of being unsafe and unreliable, it was eventually adopted by 71 countries hosting four billion people – over half of the planet’s population. Its derivative, booster shot Sputnik Light, was in turn adopted by 30 countries hosting 2.5 billion people. In total, some 400 million dozes of both were shipped abroad.
"Over the past two years since registration, the Sputnik V vaccine has become the most exported drug in the history of Russia,” Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that financed Sputnik's research, stated.
Such global success was not coincidental, as the Russian drug was not only the first to be presented, but also had certain competitive advantages.
Time-Proven Technology and Availability
Sputnik V was based on technology that has been in development since the middle of the 20th century – human adenovirus-based vectors. Modern-day Russian scientists inherited the progress made in this field from Soviet researchers who refined the process of delivering necessary genetic information to human bodies using the modified virus of a common cold.
The altered adenovirus can't reproduce, but is still recognized by a healthy immune system as a pathogen to be dealt with. However, in the case of the vaccine vector, the immune response will target not only the adenovirus, but also the genetic code of the other pathogen that it carries – in this case, the genome of the protein of COVID-19 spikes.
Since it is only a partial genome, the recipient of the Sputnik V vaccine does not actually contract COVID-19, but their immune system still produces lasting antibodies that are capable of destroying the real coronavirus. The immune system's protection is further strengthened by the second shot, carrying the same COVID-19 genome but on the shoulders of another human adenovirus vector – so that the body has to start the process of building antibodies from scratch, assuring a strong response to the pathogen.
Sputnik V was not the only jab that relied on the viral vector method, but others either proved to be either less effective than mRNA shots, or had side-effects potentially caused by the use of non-human adenoviruses as vector. Sputnik V's users did not report any adverse effects en masse, while the jab's real-world effectiveness in protecting against COVID-19 beyond clinical trials was evaluated at around 92%, according to studies published in globally-acknowledged medical journals such as the Lancet.
Ampoule with vaccine Sputnik Light against COVID-19 - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.06.2022
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Another factor that contributed to Sputnik V's popularity was its availability. While most other countries that invented early vaccines struggled to produce enough jabs for their populations - let alone for export - the Gamaleya Research Institute, with help from the RDIF, signed several contracts to establish Sputnik V production abroad to supply both the local and neighboring populations. Millions of shots were also exported by Russia itself, sometimes to vaccinate entire states, as was the case with San Marino.
Future Uses for Sputnik V
The tempos of Sputnik V and Light's production dropped alongside global levels of COVID-19 infections in 2022, but this does not mean that the Russian vaccine's days of glory are over. Statistics suggest that a new COVID wave might be upon us, with fresh variants in stock. This means that booster shots, like Sputnik Light, might be in demand again in the near future.
RDIF has been quick to assure that it can resume previous production levels quickly and easily if the necessity arises to restock supplies. The fund and the Gamaleya Research Institute have also stated that the vaccine’s formulae could be updated in a short period, with production quickly following suit, should a new variant emerge.
World Health Organization logo on its headquarters in Geneva - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.07.2022
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The latter might prove to be useful in the context of the emergence of COVID-19’s Centaurus variant, although there is currently not enough data available to be able to state clearly if existing Sputnik vaccines will be less effective against it.
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