Sputnik V goes to EU?
The Russian Sputnik V vaccine is on its way to EU.Source: DW
Could this speed up vaccination against Coronavirus in the EU?
Vaccination against Coronavirus in the EU goes very slow. The main reason for that is the lack of vaccines. European politicians are talking increasingly about the possibility of approving the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in the EU as well.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been testing this vaccine since the beginning of March. Next month, the EU is sending its experts to Russia to find out more about the results of clinical research and the method of production on the spot.
So far, not a single producer in Russia or in the EU, have managed to increase production to the extent that domestic and international demand is met. Despite that, Moscow is optimistic.
Production volume to be increased
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is in charge of fighting the pandemic, recently announced that Russia plans to produce a total of 178 million doses of Russian vaccines in the first half of the year - Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVax. Both vaccines, as most of coronavirus vaccines, must be administered twice.
At the same time, more than 30 million people should be vaccinated in Russia by mid-June, the TASS agency reported recently, referring to the Russian Minister of Health, Mikhail Murashko. That requires about 60 million vaccines.
An amount of 118 million doses will be available for export, i.e., doses enough for about 59 million people.
The Russian Investment Fund (RDIF), in charge of promoting and selling Sputnik V abroad, announced that more than 50 countries internationally are waiting for the vaccine. The fact that so many countries have already approved Sputnik V is celebrated in Russia as a great international success. According to the RDIF, more than 1.5 billion people live in all these countries.
What if the EU with its 450 million inhabitants approves the use of the Russian vaccine? However, Russia does not have the production capacity to produce so many vaccines - and will not have such capacity in the foreseeable future.
Production of Sputnik V abroad
The Kremlin finds possible production outside Russia as the solution to the problem.
"In order to meet the global demand for our vaccine, we are working on the transfer of our technology abroad. Appropriate agreements on the construction of production facilities have already been concluded with ten countries," Russian Industry Minister Denis Manturov said during a video consultation with President Vladimir Putin.
According to reports, the vaccine is already being produced in Kazakhstan, Belarus, India, South Korea, and Brazil. In addition, RDIF has signed a contract with the Swiss company Adienne Pharma & Biotech for the production of Sputnik V in its factory in Italy. The production should start in July and ten million doses should be made there by the end of the year.
On Wednesday, March 24, the news came in that the Russian concern R-Pharm plans to start the production of the Sputnik V vaccine at its plant in Illertissen, Bavaria. Ten million vaccines could be produced there starting June, R-Pharm manager Aleksandar Bykov reported. However, everything depends on whether the EMA will approve the vaccine for use.
In addition to Italy and Germany, Austria, France, and Spain are also mentioned as possible locations.
Sputnik V – one of the possible pieces of the mosaic
Therefore, the question arises: could Sputnik V accelerate the pace of vaccination in the EU? Definitely not, because the main part of the work should have been completed earlier, for several reasons.
By the summer, the volume of production of the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine will increase significantly. BioNTech's plant in Marburg, Germany, which started operating in February, should produce 250 million vaccines by the middle of the year. The French company Sanofi also announced that it would produce 125 million doses of that vaccine for the EU.
From April, the American company Johnson and Johnson will deliver its vaccine to Europe, and between May and June, the second German mRNA vaccine, CureVac, should be approved. The EU should receive a total of 405 million doses of the vaccine.
Preparations are underway for the approval of the American vaccine Novavax.
At the same time, the EU is trying to make AstraZeneca to fully comply with its contractual obligations. 180 million doses were planned to be delivered in the second quarter of the year.
This means that the use of Sputnik V vaccines in the EU could start only before the end of the mass vaccination, probably in smaller quantities in the first phase. Therefore, this vaccine should not greatly affect the vaccination campaign in the EU. However, production in European companies could enable Russia to better supply other countries around the world with the Sputnik V vaccine.
Therefore, the EU will be an important place for production, rather than an important buyer of vaccines from Russia.