Friday, 16 Apr 2021

EU fury as Italy, Spain, Germany and France ignore bloc to strike vaccine deal with Russia

Italy: Expert discusses Russian Sputnik vaccine

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The head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Tuesday that his organisation had struck deals with vaccine production facilities in Italy, Spain, France and Germany to manufacture the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.

Speaking to state channel Rossiya 24, Kirill Dmitriev, RDIF’s head, did not provide any details.

He was speaking after RDIF signed a commercial deal with a Swiss-based pharmaceuticals company to produce the vaccine in Italy.

The Swiss company could start producing the Russian jab just outside Milan as soon as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi approves the deal.

Last month, the new Italian leader urged the European Medicine’s Agency (EMA) to consider Moscow’s jab for approval.

But the EU regulator’s neutrality was questioned by the developers of the vaccine on Tuesday after an official with the regulator urged EU states to refrain from approving the shot for now.

EMA management board chief Christa Wirthumer-Hoche told an Austrian talk show on Sunday that she would advise European Union countries against granting Sputnik V national emergency authorisation while EMA was still reviewing its safety and effectiveness.

“We demand a public apology from EMA’s Christa Wirthumer-Hoche for her negative comments…, (which) raise serious questions about possible political interference in the ongoing EMA review,” the developers wrote on the official Sputnik V Twitter account.

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In a written response, the Amsterdam-headquartered EMA said its review process for possible vaccines makes sure that all EU countries have “access to effectively evaluated medicines at the same time and ensures centralised safety monitoring across their life cycle.”

EMA said this month it would review data from ongoing trials of the vaccine until there was enough evidence for a formal marketing authorisation application.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Wirthumer-Hoche’s statement regrettable and inappropriate.

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The developers said Sputnik V had already been authorised by 46 countries.

It has been approved or is being assessed for approval in three EU member states – Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – and EU officials have said Brussels could start negotiations with a vaccine maker if at least four member countries request it.

The Kremlin’s response ignited a swipe from European Council President Charles Michel.

The EU chief took aim at the “highly publicised” supply of COVID-19 vaccines from China and Russia to other countries and said Europe would not use vaccines for propaganda purposes.

He said in a statement: “We should not let ourselves be misled by China and Russia, both regimes with less desirable values than ours, as they organise highly limited but widely publicised operations to supply vaccines to others.”

He noted that, according to available figures, China and Russia have administered half as many coronavirus vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants as the 27-nation EU.

“Europe will not use vaccines for propaganda purposes. We promote our values,” he said.

On Tuesday, Ukraine announced it has approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac.

Ukrainian pharmaceutical company Lekhim – one of Sinovac’s partners – has an agreement with the manufacturer to deliver 5 million doses of the vaccine in Ukraine, including 1.9 million via a state procurement scheme.

Lekhim said last month it had submitted documents seeking approval for the shot, while a senior ministry official said last week that authorities would impose financial penalties on the company over delays in delivering it.

Ukraine, one of Europe’s poorer countries, has lagged behind many of its neighbours in securing vaccines for its 41 million people, asking European Union states for help while refusing to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

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