Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel discussed with Vladimir Putin the terms of possible cooperation in the field of vaccines against covid-19 on Tuesday, during a videoconference. This means that they spoke of Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine that started the European Medicines Agency (EMA) continuous assessment process, with the aim of joining the European Union’s coronavirus vaccine arsenal.
EMA is an independent scientific agency, and despite everything that can be heard and read, it should do its evaluation work without political interference. Emer Cooke, the EMA director, said that in April the agency will go to Russia, visit the laboratories of the National Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology Gamaleya, where the vaccine was developed, and the factories where it is being produced.
“The Russian vaccine will be subject to the same evaluation criteria as all others,” Emer Cooke has repeated. However, even European commissioners have gone too far in their duties, such as when Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, asked the EMA in Moscow to approve the Sputnik V.
But the fact that Chancellor Angela Merkel is discussing the vaccine with Vladimir Putin will sound less strange if it is known that the request for entry by the Sputnik V in the EU it is presented by a German pharmaceutical company, R-Pharm – which hopes to be the manufacturer of the Russian vaccine in Germany.
Much is heard of the Russians’ interest in factories in Europe, to manufacture the Sputnik V, why does this happen? If it is approved, it is not already done, will we not import it already done, like the other vaccines?
There are strong constraints on vaccine production Sputnik V in Russia, therefore, its export model is based on building an international network of factories to supply not only the countries where they are located, but also to export to other countries where the vaccine is approved.
In fact, the lack of industrial capacity in Russia is so serious, reported the New York Times this week that Russia is importing Sputnik V made in South Korea to supply its market. And it has plans to do the same with factories in India – where it has production contracts with three companies and is waiting, at all times, to be approved by the drug’s regulatory agency.
In Europe, in addition to Germany, agreements are being announced to produce the vaccine in Italy, probably in Serbia, perhaps in Spain.
Recently, it was announced that Russia intends to produce 178 million doses of the Sputnik V and two other vaccines against covid-9, called EpiVacCorona e CoviVakuntil the end of June, reported Deutsche Welle. But the objectives are being difficult to achieve – just as the European Union is having difficulty with vaccine production, by the way.
The scarcity of vaccine production in Russia may have been a factor that caused Vladimir to be vaccinated only on 23 March, the Kremlin said. By June, the plans are to immunize 30 million people, and for that it would be necessary to produce at least 60 million doses, apart from the extra amount destined for export. According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is commercializing the Sputnik V, the total population of nations interested in already commemorating the Russian vaccine reaches 1.5 billion people.
But, according to the New York Times, only 4.4% of the Russian population was vaccinated against covid-19. In the European Economic Area (European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), 13.5% of the population over 18 has already taken the first dose of the vaccine (but only 5.7% has already taken both doses) , according to the latest data from the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why are the Russians not getting their own vaccine?
There is great suspicion of the Russians in relation to the vaccine, explained to the PUBLIC Kadri Liik, of the European Council of International Relations (ECFR), specialist in Russian politics and in the relations of Russia with the West. “It is impressive, the data from the available polls are impressive, showing that more than 50% of the general population and doctors do not trust the vaccine. It is a higher value than in any other country. ”
The Russians are suspicious of their vaccine because it was launched with a lot of propaganda, and the first clinical trials were criticized by Western scientists for their lack of rigor. “People don’t trust the vaccine because it was launched in a highly politicized way. And this is linked to the resentment of the Russian population with the way their government acted during the pandemic ”, explains Liik. “But this is something that Moscow can only blame itself on,” says the Estonian analyst.
Does this mean that the vaccine is not to be trusted?
The vaccine appears to be of good quality and the results of phase 3 clinical trials, published in the medical journal The Lancet, have not yet aroused criticism from the scientific community.
It is a vaccine of the same type as AstraZeneca or Janssen, a viral vector vaccine, which uses two adenoviruses modified in such a way that they do not cause disease to introduce the gene into the body that controls the production of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and in this way train the immune system to recognize it, if there is an infection. One adenovirus is used in the first dose, and another in the second – this strategy may increase the effect of the vaccine.
Tests are underway to administer the vaccine Sputnik V together with that of AstraZeneca, to try to enhance the effects of both.
There are already countries in Europe where Sputnik V is it to be administered?
Yes. Serbia already uses the Russian vaccine, and Hungary was the first country in the European Union to approve it, even before the EMA authorized it. Between the end of last week and this week, the Government of Slovakia fell, because a secret agreement to buy the vaccine was known Sputnik V – the prime minister ordered two million doses in secret, without even informing the three other parties that form the coalition.
This week, the office of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz issued a note saying that Vienna is in negotiations with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to acquire one million doses of Sputnik V. “There should be no geopolitical blindness to vaccines,” said Kurz, quoted by Politico. “The only thing that matters is whether the vaccine is effective and safe, not its origin.”
But this is not so straightforward, because for the Baltic countries, for example, the idea of allowing a Russian vaccine, even against covid-19, to enter the European Union is offensive. Ukraine, which maintains a conflict with Russia in the east of the country, resolutely refuses to receive Sputnik V– while the citizens of the pro-Russian East are immunized with it.
From the beginning – look at the name, like the first Russian-made man-made satellite – that the vaccine Sputnik V (the “v” is for vaccine or victory) has both science and propaganda from the Russian regime. It will be impossible to remove that characteristic from him.
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