Russia’s flagship two-shot vaccine Sputnik V has shown 91.6 per cent efficacy against symptomatic Covid-19 in clinical trials, a Lancet peer review has confirmed, bringing the global total of vaccines whose efficacy is confirmed to be higher than 90 per cent to three.
The results from an interim analysis, now confirmed by peer review, also showed the jab provided full protection against moderate or severe cases of Covid-19.
Alexander Gintsburg, director of Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, the state-run virology research centre that developed the jab, said the results were a “monumental achievement” and “a great success in the battle against the global Covid-19 pandemic”.
Analysis of participants older than 60, about 2,000 of whom were in the trial, suggests the vaccine is similarly effective in that cohort. The trial is ongoing and will aim to enrol a total of 40,000 participants overall.
Participants were given two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart.
Because the study dates back a couple of weeks, it does not include efficacy figures on new variants, such as the one first identified in South Africa, that appear to be less susceptible to inoculation. The Gamaleya Institute has said it expects Sputnik V to protect against the new variants.
Concerns over vaccine shortages in Europe have prompted some politicians in the EU to question whether the bloc will need to turn to the Russian vaccine to help it emerge from the pandemic.
Hungary last month became the first EU state to approve Sputnik V, while candidate EU states in the Balkans such as Serbia have pursued vaccines from China and Russia while also negotiating for bloc-approved jabs.
Russian president Vladimir Putin made Sputnik V the world’s first registered vaccine last August before phase 3 trials had even begun, alarming scientists who said Moscow was cutting corners in a rush to beat its western rivals.
Ian Jones, a virology professor at the University of Reading, and Polly Roy, a virology professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said Russia now had the scientific data needed to back up Mr Putin’s efficacy claims.
“The outcome reported here is clear and the scientific principle of vaccination is demonstrated, which means another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of Covid-19,” they said.
The state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, which has sponsored research into the jab, says Moscow hopes to produce up to 1.4bn doses of the vaccine this year, including in countries such as China, Brazil, and India.
The European Medicines Agency is in talks over Sputnik, which is already approved in 16 countries, including Russia, Argentina and Iran.
“Russia has done everything right,” RDIF director Kirill Dmitriev said. “We were right to register it early, we were right to share with the world that we have one of the most efficient vaccines, and we were right to start vaccinating our at-risk personnel early. We saved lots of lives.”
Despite the promising results, Russia has struggled to get its population on board. Only 46 per cent of Russians expressed a readiness to take the vaccine in an Ipsos survey last week, results well behind the US (63 per cent), Germany (67 per cent) and the UK (86 per cent).