India, which has recently seen one of the worst spikes of coronavirus cases in the world, is in the midst of the largest vaccination drive ever to be undertaken. In order to safeguard citizens, vaccination is the way forward and the government is looking for vaccine candidates apart from Covishield and Covaxin -- both of which are manufactured in India.
One of the most talked-about candidates is the Sputnik V, which recently received the nod for emergency use in India to be distributed by Dr Reddy's Lab (DRL). Developed by Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health, the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 91.6 per cent among fully vaccinated people, according to a study published in February 2021. The vaccine is also dubbed as Gam-Covid-Vac.
While globally, the Covid vaccines developed so far are to be administered in two doses, this Russian candidate has another variant that has the advantage of being administered in a single dose. The one-dose vaccine, dubbed as Sputnik Light, could speed up the pace of vaccination drive in countries like India, inoculating twice as many people at the same time.
Sputnik Light was approved for emergency use in Russia in May, with an efficacy rate of 79.4 per cent. Discussions on granting it emergency use approval in India are currently on.
Sputnik Light could speed up the pace of vaccination drive in countries like India. (Photo: Reuters)
Design: The science behind Sputnik V vs Sputnik Light
Sputnik V used the SARS-CoV-2's genetic instructions to build the spike protein and stores the information in the double-stranded DNA. The vaccine has been developed from adenoviruses, a kind of virus that causes colds. Researchers added the gene for Covid spike protein to two adenoviruses, engineering them to invade affected cells. The Sputnik V derives inspiration from the adenovirus used to create a vaccine for Ebola by Johnson & Johnson.
Once injected the adenovirus latches on to the spike proteins engulfing the virus in a bubble travelling to the nucleus of the affected cell where its DNA is stored. The adenovirus is designed in a way that it cannot replicate itself but the gene of the spike protein can be read by the cell and copied into a molecule called messenger RNA, or mRNA. The cells molecules begin assembling spike proteins breaking them into fragments and the adenovirus provokes the immune system to react strongly to these spike proteins as helper T cells trigger antibody generation.
The Sputnik Light also works on a similar design and uses recombinant human adenovirus to carry the code for spike proteins. The vaccine uses a similar design as the J&J which uses human adenovirus serotype number 26.
Sputnik V has been approved for emergency use in India. (Photo: Getty)
Dosage, efficacy: Single dose of Light over two doses of Sputnik V
The Sputnik V is to be administered in two dosages at a gap of 21 days according to initial reports. Gamaleya had announced that the two doses of Sputnik V have an efficacy rate of 91 per cent, while the single dose has 79.4 per cent efficacy. However, the company is yet to release scientific papers detailing the trial phase of the Sputnik Light vaccine and it is not yet clear as to how long the immunity from the vaccine lasts. Sputnik V was approved in India in mid-April under emergency use authorisation. Gamaleya maintains that the vaccine has been approved in over 65 countries so far.
However, the developers have confirmed that the jab is less effective against the South African variant of Covid-19 but claimed that it still offers protection against other mutations than its rivals. Meanwhile, Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) claimed that Sputnik Light will cover all the existing mutations within the next two months. The company believes that Sputnik Light will be registered in most of the countries that approve Sputnik V.
India is in the midst of the world biggest vaccination drive.
Sputnik V vs Sputnik Light: Cost
Sputnik V, which was launched in May by DRL is at the time the second most expensive vaccine at Rs 948 per dose that goes up to Rs 995.40 per dose after adding the five per cent GST slab. DRL, which has received nearly 1,50,000 doses of the vaccine, is hopeful that prices may go down once local supplies begin. However, there is no specific timeline as to when that might happen.
Meanwhile, the Sputnik Light which is yet to be approved in India is likely to be priced around $10 (approx Rs 730).