The new variant of coronavirus recognized by scientists in the United Kingdom has shaken up the world as researchers have indicated at the probability of the mutant virus to be more infectious. Anew strain- VUI–202012/01, that has been responsible for 60% of all cases in London by December mid-week, is 70% more contagious than versions of the COVID-19 in the past. Researchers are still investigating on the effects and harshness of the new variant.
Meanwhile, experts emphasize that the Indian government should opt for vaccine portfolio, which means granting Emergency Use Authorisation to all the vaccines can further help in tackling the new variant.
Commenting on the efficacy level of AstraZeneca- one of the vaccines which has been given EUA by the government, Dr. Deb kishore Gupta, Consultant & Head- Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Head- Infection Prevention & Control, Ruby General Hospital, Faculty, DNB Microbiology, Assessor-NABL, NABH, WHO Patient Safety says, “This is the average efficacy between the normal group receiving two full doses- 62 percent and half-dose and full dose – 90 percent. India has approved full-dose regimen. On the basis of the full dose regimen for both approved shots, AZ had showed 62 percent efficacy based on the paper they themselves submitted to the Lancet magazine; this is way too lower than other vaccinations such as Pfizer and Sputnik V that have been approved world wide but not approved by Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).”
Moreover, the objective of a vaccination is to prevent a disease by working with the immune response of the body. When a person is vaccinated and thereafter exposed to the virus, the immune system identifies the antigen and stops the person from getting the infection infected. So, it is important to understand what goes in the making of the vaccine.
Proven Platform: Post the outbreak of the pandemic, researchers at Gamaleya institute extracted a fragment of genetic material from novel corona virus SARS-COV-2,which codes information about the spike S protein structure, responsible for connection with the human cells. Further they inserted it into a familiar adenovirus vector for delivery into a human cell and what came out in the process was the world’s first registered vaccine based on a well-studied human adenoviral vector-based platform, Sputnik V.
So, what is vector?
Vectors are vehicles. Adenoviral vector is used as carrier of SARS COV -2 glycoprotein S genome. Because genome is base against which antibodies will develop. It will require a vehicle or carrier for this Genome into the cells. Therefore,the vectors are using adenoviral vectors.There is different type of adenoviral vectors. There are human adenoviral vector and adenoviral vectors of the other species.
“The Sputnik V vaccine uses human adenoviral vectors, with two different adenoviral vector components (rAd26 and rAd5). The same adenoviral platform was used to produce Gendicine six years ago against Ebola. More than 250 clinical trials and 75 scientific publications have confirmed the safety of the vaccines which are based on human adenoviral vectors. Sputnik V is based on this platform and chimpanzee adenovirus-based ones used by AstraZeneca and mNRA-based ones from Pfizer and Modern a are mNRA adenovirus,” says Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, Chairperson of the Indian Academy of Public Health and Indian Alliance of Patients Group, Former Senior Advisor at UNICEF and Former Director at IIHMR.
Safety and efficacy: Let’s understand, where does Sputnik V stand in the host country? “In Russia,the vaccine has undergone through phase I and phase II trials that were evaluated with 76 healthy volunteers and phase III is ongoing.The non randomized vaccine trial results were published in the Lancet journal (one of the leading medical journals). The immunogenicity found in both trials was very good. As far as the new variant is concerned, these mutations are quite common. We have seen this in case of influenza and other infections. So, all RNA viruses mutate a lot. It doesn’t mean that every time, there is a mutation, existing vaccines become completely ineffective. They will still protect although there may be slight change in the efficacy. That too, however, can only be proved after they undergo the clinical trials and further research.”
To which Dr. Sanjiv Kumar adds, “Most viruses undergo mutation and change their genetic structure such as UK variant of COVID 19. With the evidence we have, we can conclude that the vaccine will provide protection against the new variants.”
Storage and transportation: “As some vaccines such as Pfizer have been approved in some countries and awaiting approval in others storage and transportation is seen to be the challenge in India as it needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Vaccine Storage will not be a problem if India chooses a vaccine, which can be stored at 2-8 degree Celsius or minus 20 degree Celsius as current vaccines used for women and children under Universal Immunization Programme in India are stored at these temperatures in Ice lined Refrigerators and Deep Freezers in India. Sputnik V is available in two forms, liquid, to be stored at minus 18-degree C and freeze dried lyophilized (powder form to be dissolved in liquid diluent at the time of vaccination), to be stored at 2 to 8-degree Celsius. The lyophilized form of Sputnik V has been manufactured keeping transportation to village level vaccination sites in mind, which makes it more suitable for Indian system,” says Dr. Kumar.
Dosage: “As per the information available till now, Sputnik V, on the contrary, is a vaccine uses two different vectors for different injections, human adenovirus types Ad5 and Ad26. Two doses of the vaccine are required three weeks apart with the outcome antibodies are developed against S-protein of the virus after rigorous administration. Soon after that the immunity is activated against this protein, that prevents the coronavirus to enter in the body cells and finally makes it immune to the infection,” says Dr Gajendra Singh, Public Health Expert.
Affordable pricing: Stating how the ideal vaccine should be, keeping India’s vision of affordable healthcare in mind, Dr. Gajendra Singh, Public Health Expert says, “Sputnik V is expected to be available at a price around $10 or ₹700 per dose for national and global markets while other vaccines would be costing little higher such as Pfizer at $19.50 or ₹1,401.86 and Moderna $25-37 or ₹ 1,843.93- ₹ 2,729.01 per dose.[i] More than 40 countries have expressed interest in vaccine and there are preliminary orders for 1.2 billion doses.[i] India requires a safe and effective vaccine and cheaper than contemporaries as targeted number of beneficiaries is huge.
Russia has a rich history of virology and vaccine development. The first vaccination in the history of Russia is believed to be made on 23 October 1768.
Russian leaders and their family members were the first to vaccinate against an illness using a new vaccine invented in Russia. Leaders in Russia are still pursuing that great practice that has been going on for centuries. The year 1768 marked the beginning of such an exemplary custom initiated by the great powerful Russian Tsarina “Catherine the Great”-(The leader who did such a magnificent thing will be known in the pages of history as “ The vaccine queen). When the Small-pox epidemic swept Siberia swiftly killing some 20,000 people, the great Catherina wanted to prove to the Russian people that this was a safe and effective procedure. She and her son were quietly inoculated. The procedure was a success.