The Efficacy of the Russian COVID-19 Vaccine

In the face of global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have put their trust in the creation of a vaccine in the hope that a vaccine would bring an end to their collective suffering. In August 2020, Russia became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a coronavirus vaccine, claiming a high level of immunity of 91.6% based on 16,000 volunteers. To date, five Russian vaccines have been developed and authorized for use, yet their reported efficacy remains largely unanswered and shrouded in controversy, as the vaccinators have shared little to no data to back their reports. This article will explore the efficacy of Russian COVID-19 vaccines, drawing on data and research to analyze the evidence around their performance.

Overview of the Russian Vaccines

At present, five vaccines – two inactivating vaccines and three vector vaccines – have been developed by Russia, some with the possibility of undergoing further mutations.

The two inactivating vaccines, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute within the Ministry of Health, are Sputnik V and COVID-19 Vaccine Sinkov. Both use a weakened form of the adenoviridae virus to deliver genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body, triggering an immune response.

The three vector vaccines, developed by the Vector State Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology, are EpiVacCorona, CoviVac, and Coronavac. These vaccines use a different method, which involves introducing either a recombinant virus carrying the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or an attenuated virus to the body to trigger an immune response.

What is the Efficacy of the Russian Vaccines?

The efficacy of the Russian vaccines is still uncertain and is often disputed, due largely to the vaccines being authorized without the completion of Phase 3 trials.

Data from Phase 1 and 2 trials are available from the Gamaleya Research Institute, with Sputnik V showing a 91.6% efficacy in 16,000 volunteers who received two doses of the vaccine. Coronavac, however, has only released evidence regarding their Phase 1 trials, which show a 90.4% efficacy. There is no data available to date for the other three Russian vaccines.

Despite the incomplete data and reliance on anecdotal evidence, the Russian government has begun to roll out the Sputnik V vaccine, claiming it is achieving similar levels of effectiveness to vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Other experts, however, have raised concerns that the lack of data surrounding the Russian vaccines means that the reported immunity rates may be inaccurate.

Challenges to the Validation of Vaccine Efficacy

The uncertainty around the efficacy of the Russian vaccines has been attributed to the lack of research that has been conducted and the inadequate validation process.

In the case of Sputnik V, the Phase 3 trials did not include a placebo group, making it difficult to accurately measure the immunogenicity and efficacy of the vaccine. Additionally, data from Phase 2 trials have not been made publicly available, and the vaccine was approved for use before the completion of Phase 3 trials.

The situation for the three vector vaccines is even more concerning, as these vaccines have been authorized for use without any Phase 3 trials or studies at all. Currently, these vaccines remain in the Phase 2 testing stage but without access to adequate data and the completion of Phase 3 trials, the efficacy of the vaccines remains unconfirmed.

Other Concerns

In addition to the concerns regarding the efficacy of the Russian vaccines, there are other safety concerns that may impact the effectiveness of the vaccination program.

Components in the Russian vaccines could potentially lead to adverse reactions and there is limited to no data available on the long-term effects of the vaccines. Furthermore, the vector vaccines use a live attenuated virus, which could potentially lead to severe complications if the virus mutates in the host body.

Unprecedented Healthcare Delivery

The under-researched nature of the vaccines has led to an unprecedented healthcare delivery method, with vaccine teams being sent out across the country to administer the Sputnik V vaccine to people of all ages. Although many of the people vaccinated have reported feeling less ill after receiving the jab, long-term safety data is still needed to guarantee the safety and efficacy of the Russian vaccine.

The efficacy of the Russian COVID-19 vaccines remains uncertain and unconfirmed, largely due to the lack of research and validation. Data from Phase 1 and 2 trials for some of the vaccines is available, yet this does not provide sufficient insight into the effectiveness of the vaccines. The continued rollout of the Russian vaccine across parts of the country is concerning, due to the lack of safety and efficacy data, as well as the potential for mutation of the live attenuated viruses. While the Russian vaccine has been reported to provide high levels of immunity, evidence to back these claims is needed in order to ensure that the public is receiving the most effective and safe vaccination available.