Brussels. The European Union is split over Sputnik, with Italy likely to play the leading role in favor of the Russian vaccine. So much so to consider producing it in the ReiThera factory, a factory near Rome owned 30% by the state. For now, these are scenarios, but behind the scenes in Brussels the positions of governments on the Moscow immunizer have already emerged. And so Reuters reports that some European governments may ask to include the preparation pumped by the Kremlin’s propaganda into the Union’s vaccination strategy.
Let’s take a step back, returning to March 4, when EMA, the EU drug agency, launched the “continuous review” of Sputnik, the first formal phase of the procedure leading to the approval of a vaccine in Europe. In Brussels they explain that the green light could come in May. In the meantime, Hungary and Slovakia have moved independently, giving the national emergency green light to the preparation in Moscow, breaking the European front. A risk, they report in Brussels, given that if Sputnik seems promising, the data provided by the Russians are lacking and above all no public authority on the planet has verified them (only Lancet did) so use the vaccine before the EMA exam. it is still a gamble.
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Just in the days of the launch of the EMA rolling review, the Italian government made it known that it intended to use Sputnik, but that it would not force the times with an AIFA national emergency green light. Furthermore, the Draghi executive informed the partners that it would like to stipulate a European contract with the Russians equal to those signed with the producers of the 4 vaccines already approved in the Union (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen) as well as with Curevac and Sanofi. All western vaccines.
The idea of launching a single EU contract signed by Brussels, with the vials that would then be divided equally between the continental partners, however, does not appeal to all governments as inserting Sputnik in the European campaign would represent a sensational victory of image for Vladimir Putin. These are obviously the countries most hostile to Moscow, such as the Baltics and Poland. And then, indeed above all, Europeans have serious doubts about Russian production capacity, so much so that Charles Michel himself, president of the European Council, said last week: “We must not be deceived by China and Russia, regimes with less desirable values. of ours, who organize a highly publicized but limited campaign to provide vaccines to others ”. Where “limited” means that Moscow pushes Sputnik, but is unable to produce it massively, so much so that the percentage numbers of vaccinated in Russia are lower than in Europe.
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At the moment, therefore, Europe is waiting, as a spokesman for the European Commission confirmed today: “There are no discussions underway with the company that produces Sputnik but together with governments at any time we can decide to extend the vaccine portfolio”. Yes, because in the midst of the discussions Angela Merkel’s Germany seems to be standing. European sources explain that Berlin’s position would be to wait another month and a half, until the green light of the EMA arrives and then decide. The Berlin line – however interested in Sputnik – could therefore serve to curb the appetites of national governments – under attack together with Brussels for the fact that vaccines come with a dropper – up to the green light of the EMA and a little more clarity on Russian industrial capabilities. After that we will see.
Reuters, however, reports that the Italian government has communicated to partners that it considers converting the largest plant for the production of vaccines in the country to manufacture Sputnik. This is the ReiThera factory near Rome, 30% owned by the state. It would be a resounding endorsement for the Russian compound. To negotiate a European vaccine contract requires the request of at least 4 governments: Hungary and Slovakia would obviously be in favor of having already bought it, while the Czech Republic is interested. Hence, the Italian government – also pushed by pro-Russian Berlusconi and Salvini and by Draghi’s need to immunize the population to revive the economy – could shift the pendulum in favor of Sputnik. Allowing Putin to score a sensational geopolitical blow, relaunching the image of the Kremlin, which has been hit by several sets of European sanctions to date, starting with those for the invasion of Crimea and for the arrest of Navalny.