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World

Germany to talk to Russia about buying Sputnik jabs

  • Germany's comparatively slow vaccine rollout has become a lightning rod issue as it grapples with a fierce third wave of the pandemic.
08 Apr 2021

BERLIN: German officials will talk to Russia about purchasing doses of its Sputnik V virus vaccine if it gets approval from European regulators, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday.

Spahn told public broadcaster WDR that Germany was prepared to go it alone without the European Union if it meant the country could speed up its inoculation campaign.

"The EU Commission said yesterday that it will not sign contracts (for Sputnik) like for other manufacturers -- such as BioNTech, for example -- so I said... we will hold bilateral talks with Russia," Spahn said.

The minister did not indicate when the talks would take place but said they would initially cover "when supplies could arrive".

"To really make a difference in our current situation, the delivery would have to come in the next two to four, five months -- otherwise we'll have more than enough vaccines," Spahn said.

He said Germany was seeking a "binding commitment on which amounts specifically could reach Germany after regulatory approval and when".

Germany has until now coordinated its vaccine buying with the EU.

But the southern state of Bavaria said on Wednesday it had signed a letter of intent to buy up to 2.5 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine if it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In addition to the option of importing the vaccine from Russia, a production facility is also to be set up by the pharmaceutical company R-Pharm in the town of Illertissen.

Germany's comparatively slow vaccine rollout has become a lightning rod issue as it grapples with a fierce third wave of the pandemic.

Only 13 percent of the population has received its first of two doses, as the country reported more than 20,000 new infections on Thursday and more than 300 daily deaths.

But any agreement with Russia could be controversial as the two countries are at loggerheads over issues including repeated Russian cyberattacks against the West, the Kremlin's treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and escalating tensions on the Ukraine border.

The EMA has launched a rolling review of Sputnik V, which could become the first non-Western coronavirus vaccine approved for use across the 27-nation bloc.

But Russia has faced criticism in some Western countries, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian Moscow and China of using their vaccines to gain influence abroad.

Russia registered Sputnik V in August ahead of large-scale clinical trials, prompting concern among experts over the fast-track process.

But later reviews have been largely positive, with the medical journal The Lancet publishing results showing it was safe and more than 90 percent effective.

Spahn said Sputnik now needed to supply EMA with the clinical data necessary to win approval "just like all the other" manufacturers.