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Sputnik V manufacturers announce they've developed a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot that's effective in tackling ‘Indian variant’

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With Covid-19 cases on the rise again in Russia, the developers of the pioneering Sputnik V vaccine revealed on Thursday that they have created an upcoming booster shot that’s effective against the latest mutations of the virus.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus, first discovered in India, has spread rapidly around the world. It’s thought to be more transmissible than previous mutations, and it’s been cited by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as justifying his decision to push back the UK’s long-anticipated reopening by four weeks.

The Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute promised on Thursday that a forthcoming booster shot for its Sputnik V vaccine will work against the new variant. 

Sputnik V was the world’s first coronavirus registered Covid-19 jab, and has a proven efficacy rate of over 91%, according to The Lancet. Though it has yet to be approved by the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency, it has been deployed in 67 countries with a total population of around 3.5 billion.

The Gamaleya Institute did not give a precise timeline for the release of its booster shot, nor did it provide any figures on efficacy. The World Health Organization currently holds that existing vaccines work against the Delta variant, albeit at a reduced effectiveness. Several scientific studies in recent weeks have backed this up, finding the variant to be slightly more resistant to vaccines and antibodies than previous strains.

Unlike other vaccines, Sputnik V is delivered using two different vectors. This approach was pioneered by the Gamaleya Institute back in 2019, when it developed a vaccine against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). 

Since then, scientists have recognized the added power of mixing different vectors. The Gamaleya Institute offered Sputnik V up for clinical trials last year alongside AstraZeneca’s jab, with research still taking place. Similar trials have since been run with encouraging results, and the Gamaleya Institute called on the media on Thursday to acknowledge its “leading role” in this approach.

“Over the last year we have been tirelessly talking about heterogeneous boosting and vaccine cocktails,” the official Sputnik V social media account tweeted. “#SputnikV was [the] 1st vaccine maker to understand the future of this approach and it has to be acknowledged.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CBS News earlier this week that he’s “comfortable” that his company’s vaccine will hold back the Delta variant. Likewise AstraZeneca is counting on an efficacy rate of around 90% against the new variant from its existing two-shot approach. Should real-world research prove otherwise, and should the Gamaleya Institute’s banking on boosters pay off, Sputnik V could score yet another world first.

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