by Professor Nadey Hakim
Having reviewed the data which has been presented and disclosed regarding the Sputnik V vaccine and commenting on the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine to patients, Professor Nadey Hakim, Vice President, International Medical Sciences Academy, President’s Envoy, Imperial College, London emphasises that it would be welcome to see cooperation between multiple different countries and producers, as we need a joined-up effort to succeed in the fight against COVID-19.
Vaccines will be a major tool in the fight against COVID-19 and, ultimately, in saving the lives of many people around the globe. The approach taken towards production and administering of the vaccine should be based on the best available technologies, whilst making sure the vaccine is available equitably across the world. Countries need to construct a diverse vaccine portfolio, and the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, should be among them without question.
The term ‘Sputnik’ is a reference to a satellite that was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. ‘Sputnik’ connotes a breakthrough for the human race, both in its previous form as part of the breakthroughs in space technology we saw in the 20th century, and in a similar vein in the rapid development of new vaccine technology we have seen in recent months.
I have reviewed the data which has been presented and disclosed regarding the Sputnik V vaccine, and the corresponding publications in The Lancet, one of the leading international medical journals. It is clear that the results of the clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine have indeed shown to be effective. And what is the most important consideration for any vaccine? Conclusive proof that it is safe and effective. The fact that Sputnik V has this conclusive proof, while using a proven platform based on human adenoviral vectors and an advanced prime-boost vaccination scheme through two different adenoviruses, makes it even more impressive.
According to the protocol of Phase III clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine, its interim efficacy is calculated at three statistically significant representative control points - upon reaching 20, 39 and 78 cases of novel coronavirus infection among volunteers both in the placebo group and in the group that received the vaccine. The second interim analysis of the Sputnik V vaccine efficacy was carried out on the basis of 39 confirmed cases identified in the placebo group (31 cases) and in the vaccine group (8 cases). The ratio of the placebo group to the vaccinated group is 1 to 3.
Preliminary data on volunteers on the 42nd day after the first dose (equivalent to 21 days after the second dose), when they have already formed a stable immune response, indicates the efficacy rate of the vaccine is above 95 percent.
It is a well-known and accepted fact that Russia has a long and successful track record in vaccine development. Russian Empress Catherine the Great set the precedent for this in 1768, when she received the country’s first smallpox vaccination, 30 years before the first vaccination was done in the United States. I have also visited Russia myself, and I have seen first-hand the outstanding work the country has done in the fields of science and medicine.
There has also recently been an encouraging development for Sputnik V, with several countries in Asia forming agreements to produce the vaccine locally, such as China, India and Korea. These countries will then be able to export Sputnik V to neighbouring countries and further afield in the future.
It would certainly be welcome to see cooperation between multiple different countries and producers: we need a joined-up effort to succeed in the fight against COVID-19. Let`s take Russia and the UK for example. Personally, I’ve seen comments or assumptions in the press, which are ill-conceived or thought-out, and sadly, often coming due to envy, I believe, of the other country’s successes in vaccine development. Now is the time for cooperation across countries, global problems require global solutions.
My personal view is that hopefully we will be back to normal by March 2021, but I still believe that the vaccine will be of great use and hopefully it will be available to everyone. In summary, I am very encouraged by the progress in Asia embracing the potential of the Sputnik V vaccine.
Professor Nadey Hakim is a general surgeon and prolific author with over 150 peer-reviewed papers published and 21 textbooks written/edited in the fields of General, Transplant and Bariatric surgery. He successfully started the first Pancreas Transplantation program in the South East of England. In addition to being on the Editorial Board of Transplantation Proceedings, Graft, and Experimental and Clinical Transplantation, he served as Editor in Chief of International Surgery (2000-2011) and is currently the Emeritus Editor. He is currently the Vice President of the Royal Society of Medicine. Since 2010 he was been a specialist advisor to NICE in the field of new transplant interventions. He is a member of The International Bariatric Surgery Review Committee (IBSRC) 2010. Honorary Fellow of the Association of Surgeons of India (ASI) 2010. Royal College of Surgeons of England Assessor (since 2013).