The Russian Sputnik V vaccine appears to be gaining acceptance in the European Union, as the head of Germany’s regulatory authority publicly praised the Covid-19 vaccine and Italy could become the first European country to produce the vaccine as of the summer.
Thomas Mertens, head of Germany’s permanent vaccination commission, described Sputnik V in an interview on Wednesday as “a good vaccine that will presumably also be approved in the EU at some point.”
“Russian scientists have a lot of experience in vaccines,” Mertens told the Rheinische Post. “Sputnik V is a very smart build.”
Russia drew criticism last summer when it approved Sputnik V for widespread use after less than two months of human testing, amid fears the Kremlin hoped to harness the vaccine as a soft-power tool.
With its global image tainted by images of protests against the arrest of dissident Alexei Navalny, Russia has aggressively marketed its vaccine to non-Western countries.
But late-stage trial results published in The Lancet in February this year found the vaccine to be safe, offering about 92% protection against Covid-19.
The Russian jab is being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), but has already been ordered or put into use in some EU countries in Eastern Europe.
Starting in July, the Russian vaccine could also be produced within the European Union, after an agreement was reached between Adienne, an Italian-Swiss pharmaceutical company, and Russia’s Direct Investment Fund.
Subject to approval from Italian regulators, production could begin at the company’s Caponago factory near Milan in July, with 10 million doses of Sputnik expected to be produced for export to non-EU countries. by the end of the year.
Vincenzo Trani, president of the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce, which helped finalize the deal, praised the move as “historic” and said it would help create jobs in Italy. He added that the agreement reflects “the healthy state of relations between our two countries and underlines how Italian companies can see beyond political differences.”
The Italian government was reportedly not informed of the deal, although the economic development ministry said it was a “legitimate operation”. Attilio Fontana, president of the Lombardy region, said the agreement was “good news.”
Sputnik will not be available for use in Italy unless it has the approval of both the EMA and the Italian pharmaceutical authority, Aifa. Top politicians, as well as several medical experts, have called for the use of Sputnik to be approved in the country, where the vaccination program has been hampered by late deliveries of other injections.
Roberto Speranza, the health minister, said that if Sputnik got approval, it would be used in Italy. “If a vaccine works and if EMA and Aifa say that it is safe and effective, then nationality does not interest me,” he added.
Italy has also been under pressure to act quickly after San Marino, the landlocked microstate within central Italy, began administering Sputnik to its 35,000 residents in February.
The EMA, which has so far authorized the use of the BioNTech / Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, began evaluating the Russian vaccine on March 4.
“The EMA will assess the compliance of Sputnik V with the usual EU standards in terms of efficacy, safety and quality. While the EMA cannot predict overall timelines, it should take less time than normal to assess an eventual application, ”the regulator said in a statement.
Some Eastern European countries have already broken ranks with the rest of the EU by ordering doses of the Russian jab, the name of which evokes the world’s first satellite to be put into orbit. Hungary administered the first injection of Sputnik V on February 13 and Slovakia ordered 2 million doses in a secret deal orchestrated by the country’s Prime Minister Igor Matovič.
The Czech Republic, which recorded the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the world this month, has said that it is also considering ordering Sputnik V before the EMA authorizes it.
The EU also reportedly plans to include Sputnik V and Chinese punctures in the vaccine passport that would ease travel restrictions for those who have been immunized against the virus, whose plans will be unveiled next week.
The “EU Covid card” is expected to comprise three digital and paper documents showing whether the holder has been injected not only with EMA-approved vaccines, but also with Russian and Chinese ones, according to a report by Bloomberg.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism