Welcomed with skepticism in Europe, the vaccine developed in Russia has been approved by health authorities in more than 60 countries on four continents. More and more countries are organizing its local production.
Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared that his country would soon produce the Russian vaccine Sputnik V against COVID-19, during a working meeting in Moscow on April 28 in person filmed and posted on the ministry’s Twitter account of Relaciones exteriores from Mexico.
This was the main subject of his discussions to find compensation for the delays in shipping the first doses of the vaccine. In Mexico – which has authorized preparations from several laboratories – only one million people (out of a total population of over 125 million) have so far been vaccinated with Sputnik V. Mexico has signed an agreement with the Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF which markets the vaccine for the supply of 24 million doses by May.
A week earlier RDIF and the pharmaceutical company Richmond SACIF had said in a joint statement that Argentina became the first country in Latin America to start production of the Russian vaccine against the Sputnik V coronavirus, from June.
Tehran wants to become a hub
Earlier this week the Iranian ambassador to Russia said in Moscow, in an interview with the daily Izvestia, reported by TASS, that Tehran intended to become a hub for Russian vaccine production in the Middle East. According to the agency, Iran began its vaccination campaign with Sputnik V on February 9 by emergency personnel and workers in intensive care units. The next step will be to immunize all other health workers and people over 65.
The ambassador added that after vaccinating the people of the Islamic Republic, the country would start providing assistance to others. Iran’s manufacture of the vaccine will be licensed by the Russian Federation, so Moscow and Tehran will jointly decide where to send the vaccine, he added.
At around the same time, the Russian RDIF Fund, which financed the development of Sputnik V, announced that an agreement had been reached with Turkish pharmaceutical group Viscoran İlaç for the production of the Russian vaccine in Turkey. This should start in the coming months, in partnership with other Turkish companies.
A week earlier, April 19, he also announced that an agreement had been reached with the Chinese company Hualan Biological Bacterin for the production of 100 million doses of the vaccine. This number should allow the effective vaccination of 50 million people, as specified in the RDIF press release.
At the beginning of April, Algeria has announced that it will start producing Sputnik V locally from September while it has started vaccinating its healthcare workers with the preparation at the end of January. In December, the most populous country in the Maghreb (44 million inhabitants), relatively unaffected by the pandemic, ordered 500,000 doses of the Russian vaccine in addition to the one developed by AstraZeneca.
In mid-April, India became the 60th country to authorize vaccination with Sputnik V developed by the Gamaleïa Research Institute at the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. Now Sputnik V is licensed in 62 countries on four continents. In America, this is particularly the case in Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, in several micro-states of the Antilles… but not in Brazil… nor in the United States.
In Africa, it is authorized over a large part of the continent from the Maghreb to southern Africa, passing through the west coast and the Horn of Africa. In Asia, it has been approved from Lebanon to Vietnam via the states of Central and Southeast Asia.
Controversies and crisis in Europe
Finally in Europe, Sputnik V has been authorized in Slovakia, the Republic of North Macedonia, San Marino and Belarus, but the EMA, the drug agency for the European Union, has not yet given its approval. authorization or set a deadline for its decision on Sputnik V. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on April 22 that this vaccine would be examined jointly by its experts and those of the EMA within the framework of a new cycle on May 10.
In France, Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune estimated at the beginning of April, during a committee hearing in the Senate, that the Russian vaccine would probably not be authorized “before the end of June”.
However, Sputnik V does not generate less interest within the European Union (EU) and some controversy. So Germany decided to go it alone to pre-order millions of doses of the Russian preparation in April. A gesture from Berlin denounced as a “communication coup” on April 11. In France, Renaud Muselier president (Les Républicains) of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region declared on April 14 on RTL that he had met with the Russian ambassador in France to place a pre-order of 500,000 doses. On the occasion he had stressed that France was the only one of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council not to have vacccin.
In the eastern European Union, the Russian vaccine sparked a political crisis in Slovakia where Prime Minister Igor Matovic resigned after being disowned by the ruling coalition for his decision to buy 2 million doses of it. In February Hungary issued an exceptional authorization for the Russian vaccine without waiting for the opinion of the EMA and Italy is discussing plans to produce it.
Russia was the first country to register a coronavirus vaccine on August 11, 2020. It is a human-based vector adenovirus-type vaccine. Beginning of February 2020, The Lancet, a world-renowned medical journal, has published the results of the third phase of clinical trials of Sputnik V, claiming it to be one of the safest and most effective in the world. Russia itself did not start production of the Sputnik until early February.