The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

Fearne’s call for joint EU roll out of Sputnik vaccine rejected by EU Health Commissioner

Bettina Borg Thursday, 8 April 2021, 12:22 Last update: about 6 days ago

Deputy Health Minister Chris Fearne call for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to be acquired through a joint European Union (EU) approach has been rejected by EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

On Wednesday evening, according to a Politico report, during a videoconference with EU’s health ministers, Fearne suggested that the Sputnik vaccine should be sent to all EU countries if and when it is approved by the EU, instead of separate countries acquiring the vaccine through individual negotiations with Russia.

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Malta had been one of the countries at the forefront of the EU’s joint procurement mechanism for other vaccines – something which Fearne described as the most important thing he had fronted in the past year.

Fearne’s suggestion, however, was shut down by Kyriakides, who insisted that the EU executive cannot sign an advance purchasing agreement for the vaccine that has already been established. Additionally, she added that there is only a limited production capacity of the Sputnik vaccine in the EU and that its production cannot supply the EU’s substantial demand.

The videoconference also saw some health ministers voice their frustrations with the European Medicines Agency (EMA), saying that the agency should have issued more clear recommendations to EU states, rather than give the green light to countries securing vaccine roll-outs of their own volition.

While Sputnik V is currently under a rolling review by the EMA, half a million doses of the Russian vaccine have already been imported to Hungary; 200,000 doses of the vaccine have been imported to Slovakia and Germany has begun negotiations to purchase the vaccine.

Malta is leading the way in the EU in the vaccine roll-out program, with 42% of adults having received at least one instalment of the vaccine. Simultaneously, 95% of elderly citizens; 86% of those aged 80 and over; 76% of those aged 70 and over and 86% of vulnerable individuals have all received at least one instalment of the vaccine so far.

Thus far, Malta only offers the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, however Superintendent of Health Charmaine Gauci has confirmed that Malta is waiting for the shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be given to those 18 years and above. The vaccine will be integrated into the island’s roll-out scheme once it arrives.

Meanwhile, Associated Press reported that Germany’s health minister will hold bilateral talks with Russia on whether an order for his country makes sense.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told WDR public radio that the EU’s executive Commission said Wednesday it won’t place orders for Sputnik V on member countries’ behalf, as it did with other manufacturers - confirming Politico's story.

Spahn said Thursday he told his fellow EU health ministers that Germany “will talk bilaterally to Russia, first of all about when what quantities could come.” He said “to really make a difference in our current situation, the deliveries would have to come in the next two to four or five months already.”

Otherwise, he said, Germany would have “more than enough vaccines” already.

Spahn reiterated that, as far as Germany is concerned, Sputnik V must be cleared for use by the European Medicines Agency, and “for that, Russia must deliver data.”

On Wednesday, Bavaria’s governor said his administration was signing a preliminary contract to get 2.5 million doses of Sputnik V, probably in July, if the shot is cleared by the EMA.

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