Health, Dr Tatenda Simango
THE Covid-19 vaccine rollout has been well received; senior consultants and medical practitioners from various specialties have received the first Sinopharm vaccine jab without any problems. The vaccine seems like the only way we will win against this pandemic.
The safety of the vaccine has lived up to the literature available from research papers. Recipients have mild side effects that recede within the 30 minutes observation time; soreness from injection site, a light headache with transient dizziness. There are a lot of questions that will be answered as the rollout continues; efficacy and long term immunity.
The Sinopharm vaccine is an inactivated vaccine. It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response. This also makes it work against the variants that are coming. There are in fact, four components to the virus: the spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M) and nucleocapsid (N). The spike is just one protein that forms the overall structure of the virus.
When the Covid-19 virus changes shape it has been seen to change its spike protein that gives its “corona” or crown appearance. This is the spike protein used to gain entry into the human cell. The mRNA vaccines like oxford Astrazeneca vaccine were designed to create the body’s defence using the spike protein that has changed form (mutated).
However, the Sinopharm vaccine has the whole inactivated virus, even if the mutated virus infects a vaccinated human, the other unaltered parts will be recognised and a defence is mounted.
Researchers have discovered that people who have been infected with SARS-Cov-2 make more antibodies against the N protein than the spike. Inactivated vaccines likely target all four areas, researchers said. Meaning the Sinopharm vaccine may prove to be effective against the new strain of Covid-19.
Government has mentioned that it may be importing the Russian, Sputnik V vaccine as an option to the Sinopharm vaccine. Sputnik V is the world’s first registered vaccine based on a well-studied human adenoviral vector-based platform. The ongoing Sputnik V post-registration clinical trial in Russia involves 40 000 volunteers. The Sputnik V vaccine’s efficacy is confirmed at 91,4 percent based on data analysis of the final control point of clinical trials. The Sputnik V vaccine efficacy against severe cases of coronavirus is 100 percent.
The cost of one dose of the vaccine for international markets will be less than $10 (Sputnik V is a two-dose vaccine).
The lyophilised (dry) form of the vaccine can be stored at a temperature of +2 to +8 degrees Celsius. This makes it easy to maintain its cold chain (temperature-controlled supply chain from manufacturer to point of use).
After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Russian researchers extracted a fragment of genetic material from novel coronavirus SARS-COV-2, which codes information about the structure of the spike S-protein, which forms the virus’ “crown” and is responsible for connection with human cells. They inserted it into a familiar adenovirus vector for delivery into a human cell creating the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine.
In order to ensure lasting immunity, Russian scientists came up with a breakthrough idea to use two different types of adenovirus vectors (rAd26 and rAd5) for the first and second vaccination, boosting the effect of the vaccine. In this way, it avoids the possibility of immunity to the first dose impacting the ability of the second dose to work efficiently.
The use of human adenoviruses as vectors is safe because these viruses, which cause the common cold, are not novel and have been around for many years (lancet.com).
Efficacy at each interim analysis in the Sputnik V trial was consistently at 90% or above, based on comments in press releases. There were also no cases of severe Covid-19 in vaccinated individuals making it more effective than Sinopharm vaccine, theoretically.
Change is hard to embrace, the way I view the vaccine development platform is more of a showcase of scientific advancement among the world superpowers. This may be contrary to the common myths that try to discredit the safety of the vaccines. The best minds in the world are battling each other in laboratories, trying to come up with the ultimate vaccine that brings an end to the pandemic.
If I take you back to 2020, the conspiracy about how the Covid-19 test kit was laced with the virus were ‘‘hot’’ on social media, discouraging people from being tested. We now have a similar situation with the virus. Some of the questions we have do not have answers, but the world would rather react and curb the virus than lose another million beings to this pandemic.
I had my reservations initially but with much research and seeing my colleagues respond well to the initial dose I am now encouraged to be vaccinated despite being an asthmatic patient. We have all been affected by this pandemic and it is everyone’s wish for the fight against it to be won. Vaccination seems the way out.