Sputnik V Vaccine in India: How Russia's vaccine based on adenovirus technique different from mRNA vaccines?

The COVID-19 vaccines developed on the technique of messenger RNA or mRNA uses the mRNA molecules that tell the body's cells what proteins to build.

Created On: Apr 28, 2021 19:34 ISTModified On: Apr 28, 2021 19:34 IST
About Sputnik V Vaccine in India

Russia’s Coronavirus vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ was given approval for emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India on April 12, 2021, and as per the latest announcement by its India manufacturer Dr. Reddy's, the Russian is expected to be available in India by the end of May 2021. 

The vaccine was recommended by the expert panel for emergency use authorization in India based on the clinical trials conducted by the Indian Vaccine manufacturer Dr. Reddy’s.

With this decision, Russia’s Sputnik V has become the third vaccine in India to get emergency use approval. The other two are locally manufactured vaccines- COVAXIN of Bharat Biotech and Covishield of Oxford-AstraZeneca.

As the global community has seen the development of different Coronavirus vaccines, the technique on which they are based makes them distinct. Where some vaccines use the mRNA technique, others have been developed on adenovirus technique. Read below to know more about each of the techniques in detail.

How Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine works?

The Sputnik V vaccine which is developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow uses two different viruses that cause the common cold (adenovirus) in humans.

The adenoviruses are weakened, hence they cannot replicate in humans and are not able to cause disease.

Adenoviruses are also modified so that the vaccine delivers a code to make the Coronavirus spike protein. This is done to ensure that when the real virus tries to infect the body, it will be able to mount an immune response in the form of antibodies.


What is the difference between adenovirus and mRNA technology used in the vaccines?

Vaccines based on mRNA technology:

The COVID-19 vaccines developed on the technique of messenger RNA or mRNA basically uses the mRNA molecules that tell the body's cells what proteins to build. In this case of COVID-19 vaccines, the mRNA is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which causes Coronavirus.

It is the spike protein that initiates the process of infection, it allows the virus to penetrate the cells, after which it goes on to replicate.  The spike protein appears as spikes on the surface of Coronavirus.

The vaccine which is based on the mRNA technique, once injected, will instruct the body's cells to create copies of the spike protein. In turn, this move is expected to prompt the immune cells in the body to create antibodies to fight it. These antibodies will then remain in the blood and will fight the real virus if and when it infects the body.

Moderna and Pfizer are examples of vaccines that use mRNA technology to fight the virus.

Vaccines based on adenovirus technique:

The scientific community, on the other hand, also developed those types of vaccines that include the non-replicating viral vector category. 

In this, the vaccine uses a different virus, like a weakened version of the common cold virus (adenovirus), to carry just the code to make the spike protein. The adenovirus, which has been genetically modified so that it cannot be replicated in humans, will enter the body cells and will release code to make only the spike protein. 

Due to this, the body's immune system is expected to recognize the spike protein as a potentially harmful foreign substance and to start building antibodies against it. 

Some examples of adenovirus vaccines are Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield, Sputnik V, Johnson & Johnson.

Clinical trials in Russia for Sputnik V:

The first dose (rAD26-) was given to the trial participants which was followed by the booster dose (rAD5-S) 21 days later.

According to the authors who study was published in The Lancet, using different adenovirus vector help in creating a more powerful immune response, in comparison to using the same vector twice, as it will minimize the risk of the immune system developing the resistance to the initial vector.

The study on Sputnik V also found no allergies caused by the vaccine.

Efficacy of Sputnik V vaccine

When the vaccine was launched in August 2020 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it had come under criticism from the scientific community over the haste.

Since then, phase 3 trials of the vaccine conducted in Russia have found that it has an efficacy of 91.6%. The results of the trial were also published in The Lancet.

Professor Polly Roy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and Professor Ian Jones, the University of Reading (who were not involved in the study) wrote in The Lancet that the development of the vaccine has been criticized for corner-cutting, unseemly haste, and the absence of transparency.

However, the results of clinical trials are here and are clear and the scientific principle of the vaccination has been demonstrated. It also means that another vaccine can now join the fight for reducing the incidence of the virus.

Two shots of Sputnik V vaccine:

Different vector is used by Sputnik for each of the two shots in a course of vaccination. This will also provide immunity with a longer duration than the vaccines that use the same delivery mechanism for both shots.

The two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine are given 21 days apart.

Storage of Sputnik V Vaccine:

The vaccine is to be stored at -18 degrees Celsius in its liquid form. In its freeze-dried form, the vaccine can be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius, in a conventional refrigerator without any need of investing in additional cold chain infrastructure.

Indian partners of Sputnik V:

Dr. Reddy’s laboratories, in Hyderabad, had sought the Indian government’s approval for the vaccine to be used in the country. In September 2020, the Russian Direct Investment Fund had partnered with Dr. Reddy’s for conducting clinical trials in India.

Five other Indian Companies have also partnered with RDIF for the vaccine. They are Hetero Biopharma, Gland Pharma, Virchow Biotech, Stelis Biopharma, and Panacea Biotec. Together, their partnerships with RDIF are expected to take India’s capacity to make this vaccine to over 600 million doses a year.

Sputnik V vaccine: Background

Russia’s Coronavirus vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Moscow. The Russian Health Ministry had registered the vaccine on August 11, 2020, making Russia the first country in the world to register a vaccine against Coronavirus.

The approval met with global criticism as the ministry approved the distribution of the vaccine on the results of Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies which were published later on September 4, 2020.

However, later in February 2021, an analysis from the trial was published in The Lancet, which indicated 91.6% efficacy without any unusual side effects.

In December 2020, emergency mass distribution of the vaccine also began in different countries including Russia, Belarus, Argentina, Hungary, UAE, and Serbia.

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