How does Sputnik V Vaccine work?

Context: Sputnik V Vaccine, the vaccine against Covid-19 developed by Russia, has been cleared for emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India, the country’s drug regulator.

  • It is now the third coronavirus vaccine to get emergency use approval, after Covishield (Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (Bharat Biotech).


  • The Sputnik V vaccine uses two different viruses that cause the common cold (adenovirus) in humans.
  • The adenoviruses are weakened so they cannot replicate in humans and cannot cause disease.
  • They are also modified so that the vaccine delivers a code for making the coronavirus spike protein.
  • This aims to ensure that when the real virus tries to infect the body, it can mount an immune response in the form of antibodies.
  • Sputnik uses a different vector for each of the two shots in a course of vaccination.
  • Using a different adenovirus vector may help create a more powerful immune response (compared with using the same vector twice), as it minimizes the risk of the immune system developing resistance to the initial vector.

What is a vector-based vaccine?

  • Viral vector-based vaccines differ from most conventional vaccines in that they don’t actually contain antigens, but rather use the body’s own cells to produce them.
  • They do this by using a modified virus (the vector) to deliver genetic code for antigen, in the case of COVID-19 spike proteins found on the surface of the virus, into human cells.
  • By infecting cells and instructing them to make large amounts of antigen, which then trigger an immune response, the vaccine mimics what happens during natural infection with certain pathogens – especially viruses. This has the advantage of triggering a strong cellular immune response.

What are antigens?

  • Antigens are proteins which our immune system can recognize.
  • Majority of antigens are proteins but some are carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.
  • Any antigen that is ‘foreign to our immune system is destroyed by an antibody.

What are antibodies?

  • Antibodies are attack molecules our immune system makes to protect ourselves against foreign things such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Antibodies circulate throughout the body until they find and attach to the antigen.
  • Once attached, they can force other parts of the immune system to destroy the cells containing the antigen.
  • Antibodies can also be formed in response to different blood groups.
  • Everyone is born with some antibodies.

What are epitopes?

  • Whenever we refer a pathogen (disease causing organisms), we may think the entire microbe is responsible for the disease.
  • But the fact is these organisms possess numerous sites called as epitopes that are recognized by antibodies or receptors on the cells in the immune system.

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