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Friday, September 30, 2022

The war of Giants: Astrazenca vs Sputnik V

Covid 19 pandemic has hit the world very hard and in the most gruesome way possible. Most of the countries are struggling to provide even the basic health needs to its citizens, as the most advanced machinery also seems to be helpless in front of corona virus pandemic. While the world is struggling, some giants of the world market are involved in making vaccines as a cure for this virus rather than just taking preventive measures against this monstrous infection. The two big names of covid vaccine race are United Kingdom and Russia. Both of these countries have developed approved covid-19 vaccine which are being used worldwide. Russia has developed SPUTNIK-V and UK has developed Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine with diversifying supply chains and cheaper cost of manufacturing. The hot debate in the vaccine distribution market is to find out which one is better on all grounds including cost, distribution and effectiveness.
Sputnik-V has two advantages over AstraZeneca that are making its distribution much easier. The first one is the reduced complexity of logistics and second one is its specialized ability that it does not require any specialized storage. In liquid version Russian Sputnik-V can be stored in household freezer temperature. As far as the cost is concerned Sputnik-V which comes at a price of USD 7 to 10 is beaten by the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which comes at a lower price of USD 4. Both of these vaccines are easily accessible for the courtiers struggling with the cost of vaccinating their masses. The educed complexity of logistics and distribution has attracted many countries into buying the newly developed Sputnik-V.
The efficacy of the vaccine is also proving to the decisive factor in this race of dominating the world market by vaccine. Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has shown 76% to 79% efficacy against the virus while Russian Sputnik-V is way ahead and leading with an efficacy of 91.6% shown in phase III trials. The initial reception of this vaccine was very crucial because of the surprise announcement of President Putin about the development of vaccine in August 2020 before the publishing of phase II testing results. It provoked skepticism in scientists around the world and they highly criticized the inconsistencies in phase I and II of the trials. The team of scientist behind Sputnik-V dismissed their concerns and claims in a letter later in Lancet. After that incident phase III of the vaccine has been met more warmly around the world. Mass vaccination in the country using Sputnik-V started in early December and in February, Russia had already inoculated 2 million people with at least one dose of the vaccine. Now many countries including Argentina, Palestine, Iran, Venezuela, Hungary and UAE are using Sputnik-V and the outcome has justified the claims of 91.6% efficacy.
Unlike other similar vaccine Sputnik-V uses two different versions of the vaccine for the first and second dose respectively given 21 days apart. As well as being effective, it has shown no serious side effects which can be linked to the vaccine. While Sputnik-V is cleared of the serious side effects issues, Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is facing serious allegations around the world regarding its safety. In march the Danish Health Authority put the vaccination on hold due to severe case of blood clots. The EMA noted that there has been 30 cases of blood clots following the administration of vaccine to around 5 million people in the European Economic Area. However, it is still considered as a very rare side effect of the vaccine linked with other potential cause, controversies are still revolving around the use of vaccine around the world.
Despite the short comes and controversies revolving around the vaccines, there are some serious concerns like availability of the vaccines which is a bigger issue now a days. Many supply chains around the world are facing problems due to which the shortage of vaccine has been observed around the globe. Moderna has cited some production capacity issue while scheduling a delivery to Canada. On the other hand, India is now using its vaccine for domestic purposes due to the spike in case recently. Oxford/AstraZeneca is facing restrictions in some countries as well i.e., in UK where it has been restricted to over 30s and in Australia where it has been restricted to over 50s. 15 million doses of Johnson and Johnson were discarded in USA due to factory errors and is now undergoing further testing due to concerns about rare blood clot. All these issues put an extra pressure on Pfizer/BioNtech supply chain around the world. In this scenario, the world needs more vaccine suppliers and it has demonstrated the importance of Biotechnology in the world industry. Sputnik-V is still under review by EMA but has been authorized by 57 countries around the globe. At the moment, there are not enough does available around the globe to satisfy the demand, so the desire of new options is strong. Considering the current spike in case around the globe, strategically it is wise to consider a wide range of vaccine candidates. Diligence has to be done in such considerations and now doubt that ultimately the transparency of this process will build public trust and solve the issue of vaccine shortage for the world.


Muneeb Ul Hassan

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