Sputnik V vaccine financier discusses support from EU leaders
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Last month, regional governors in Italy signed pre-approval contracts with the Russian vaccine producers in a bid to secure more jabs for their residents as the EU Commission continues to lag behind on deliveries. Now the president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, revealed she has been in talks with Sputnik V producers since the beginning of the year.
In the latest sign of dismay against the bloc’s vaccine rollout failures, the Spanish politician admitted she went behind her Government’s back in order to secure more vaccinations outside of the EU rollout.
She said: “It wouldn’t be the first, nor the fifth, nor the 10th time that Madrid has been ahead of the Spanish government in terms of seeking out all possible ways to fight against the virus.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is yet to approve the Russian antidote, submitted for review in the bloc last month.
The vaccine was approved in Russia in August 2020 before waiting for the full results of the clinical trials.
The EMA has so far authorised four vaccines in the EU, where supply delays from producers have hampered vaccination campaigns in several of the 27 member states.
The European Commission has so far shown a reluctance to approve the use of the jab.
Commissioner Thierry Breton, who heads the EU executive’s vaccine task force, said last week that the bloc has “absolutely no need” for more vaccines produced outside the EU despite Brussels struggling with its vaccination rollout.
In March, Italy’s southern Campania region’s governor signed an agreement to buy the Russian vaccine, in the hope that the deal will become effective once the shot’s use in Europe becomes authorised.
Vincenzo De Luca said: “We have signed the contract after weeks of negotiations pending approval of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Italian regulator (AIFA).”
Campania, which includes Naples, is one of Italy’s most populated regions, with some 5.8 million residents. It has been among the worst affected areas since the pandemic took hold in February last year, with over 320,000 confirmed cases.
Mr De Luca added: “Once we have vaccinated our citizens, we will offer the shots we don’t need to the rest of Italy.”
The Italian regions of Umbria, Lazio and Sardinia have also expressed their willingness to use or experiment using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
The Republic of San Marino, although on Italian soil but independent from Italy and outside of the EU, has already successfully inoculated its citizens with the Russian jab, sparking calls from League leader Matteo Salvini for Prime Minister Mario Draghi to follow suit.
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At the EU level, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia have so far ordered the Russian vaccine.
Germany is now also open to using it, while France has kept a more cautious approach.
Angela Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said: “EMA approval, which Sputnik does not yet have, would provide the opportunity to use the vaccine in inoculation campaigns in Europe, and it would then also be worth considering for Germany.”
A spokesperson for the European Commission said Sputnik is “not on the EU radar” and insisted that the bloc could have 70 percent of the adult population vaccinated by September with the already approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Jonhson).
Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron accused China and Russia of using Covid vaccines as a form of political influence, in what he described as a “new type of world war.”
The French President said: “We are looking in particular at Russian and Chinese attacks and attempts to gain influence through the vaccine.”
Both Russia and China have vehemently denied that they are acting according to their respective geopolitical interests.
They insist their vaccination distribution programmes are based purely on humanitarian principles.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that when it came to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it was important to be guided by “humanity and the interests of saving lives” rather than “geopolitical considerations and commercial approaches”.
“Everyone, including our Western partners, who are trying to make Russia and China look like some sort of opportunists in the field of so-called ‘vaccine diplomacy’ should absolutely remember that,” Mr Lavrov said during a visit to the southern Chinese city of Guilin.
He added: “This is absolutely divorced from reality.”
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