Russia Sputnik vaccine ‘likely’ to struggle fighting South African variant like other jabs

Sputnik: Expert discusses effectiveness against South Africa strain

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Speaking to, Professor of Microbiology Simon Clarke discussed the impact of Sputnik V and the political fallout which could arise from its use. The Reading University academic argued that while it was still early days, the Sputnik vaccine would likely face problems in efficacy versus the South African variant similar to the AstraZeneca jabs. Professor Clarke also discussed whether US President Joe Biden would oppose the Sputnik rollout and gave a warning about the UK’s vaccination success story. 

When asked about Sputnik how it can tackle the South African variant, Professor Clarke pointed out that there was little data on its effectiveness so far. 

He said: “But I suspect that it will have the same problems as most of if not all of the vaccines because it targets the same molecule on the surface of the virus – which virtually all of the others do.

“So I strongly suspect that it will have the same problems, we don’t know that yet, but in the same way we can reengineer other vaccines its producers will be able to reengineer Sputnik V.”

The South African variant contains a mutation called E484K which edits the proteins of the virus so it can attack human cells easier. 

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This makes it more difficult for the immune system to identify and attack and has caused efficacy issues for vaccines rolled out in South Africa. 

Scientists found there were different efficacy rates of the same vaccines used in South Africa and other countries with some concluding the new variant/mutation is to blame.

Professor Clarke added that while the UK’s vaccination programme was a success story the important thing is to push for a global vaccination effort rather than being first. 

The virologist pointed out that new mutations would constantly appear which could prove difficult for vaccination programmes to keep a lid on. 

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Virus monitoring group NERVTAG recently announced a new Bristol coronavirus variant was “a cause for concern” since it also contains the E484K mutation. 

Professor Clarke also discussed the geopolitical impact of Sputnik amid the issues within the EU and their programme. 

The Reading lecturer argued that while the US may be opposed to a vaccine power grab from Russia it would be difficult to publically denounce its use when lives are on the line. 

America has been a strongly opposed to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline being built between Russia and Germany over fears it would increase the Eastern superpower’s influence. 


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He added that while there was scepticism against the Russian vaccine at the beginning due to the lack of proper trials, the doubt is unfounded as the nation has a strong history of vaccination programmes. 

Hungary became the first EU nation to approve the use of the Russian Sputnik jab as many more across the world begin to use it. 

Iran, Egypt, Argentina and more already import the vaccine with the EU recently accepting an application to review Sputnik V for use in Europe.  

Professor Clarke explained it was unlikely to see Sputnik used in the UK because of AstraZeneca’s already successful inclusion in the country’s programme.

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