Tuesday, May 18

Merkel negotiates a bilateral contract to buy the Russian Sputnik V vaccine

Correspondent in Berlin



The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had already advanced that Germany will use the Russian vaccine as soon as it receives authorization from the European institutions. He had also reported on a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he inquired about the possibilities of joint production of the vaccine. And now the German Health Minister, Jens Spahn, is negotiating a bilateral contract, apart from the joint purchases made by the European Commission, to acquire the Russian vaccine. This is reported by several German media, citing sources familiar with the negotiation. The German federal government thus joins the preliminary contract signed yesterday by the Bavarian regional government, which has already agreed to the purchase of 2.5 million doses of Sputnik V that will be manufactured in its territory by a subsidiary company of the Russian producer.

The european commission has made it clear that it has no intention of signing preliminary agreements of Russian vaccine procurement and in Germany criticism is multiplying against an effort to purchase vaccines from Brussels, which is showing great ineffectiveness, judging by the comparison between the speed with which other countries vaccinate and the speed with which the limping members of the EU. In German vaccination centers there is a dose shortage situation which has led, for example, to the closure of two centers in Berlin this week because they did not have a single dose to apply. In this context, Minister Spahn now recognizes his intention to obtain the Sputnik V vaccine on his own, with the aim of accelerating vaccination and being able to meet the objectives. Merkel has promised that on September 21 all those Germans who wish will be vaccinated, five days before the general elections.

First, however, it is necessary to clarify what quantities Russia can deliver and when, clarifies the German Ministry of Health, that it will wait for European approval to apply the Russian vaccine but that it wants to buy it on its own initiative as soon as possible. The German government has been lobbying for months for the European Commission to negotiate a possible purchase of this vaccine with Russian suppliers. European Commissioner Thierry Breton has insisted that this unnecessary operation because the EU has already agreed to enough vaccines from other manufacturersWhile several EU countries have already been securing doses of Sputnik V bilaterally and several of the German Bundesländer have also taken the same path.

Following the announcement of Bavaria, the leader of the conservative parliamentary group of Thuringia, Mario Voigt, has demanded that his regional government follow the example of Munich and get a preliminary contract. “Thuringia must finally get rid of the red lantern for infections”, justified Voigt last night in Erfurt, “the regional government should stop doubting and immediately ensure the Sputnik vaccination doses.”

Lower Saxony, however, he has spoken out against ordering the vaccine on his own. Regional President Stephan Weil, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), responded to a parliamentary question: “No. We adhere to the agreed procedure. The fact of the Bavarian colleague who, in concise words, always demands uniform and consistent behavior from the Bundesländer in the fight against the pandemic, speaks for itself.

The decision of the German government to obtain the Russian vaccine on its own, in any case, is not sudden. Putin and Merkel already addressed the possibility of jointly producing it last January, at a meeting where “cooperation in the fight against the pandemic was discussed, with special attention to the possible prospects of joint vaccine production,” the Kremlim statement acknowledged. R-Pharm Germany GmbH, the German company based in Bavaria that is now ready for the production of the Russian vaccine, is officially the one that has submitted the application to the EMA, but who is really behind this initiative is R-Pharm, founded in 2001 by the economist and businessman Alexey Repik, its current president, with excellent contacts in the Kremlim. The company had a turnover of more than 1.6 billion dollars in 2014 and has more than 4,500 employees in 70 locations in 30 countries.

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