Although the EU does not consider contracting the Russian vaccine Spútnik V until now and it has not yet received authorization from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Germany is studying the possibility of buying it on its own to increase the doses with which to immunize its population. Health Minister Jens Spahn announced that he plans to hold bilateral talks with Russia for eventual supplies of this serum if he finally receives the green light from the EMA for its application in Europe. The conservative politician asked, however, that this option does not give rise to “a mirage debate”, since before this acquisition “Russia must provide data” on the efficacy and safety of its drug.
Spahn’s own announcement undermines, de facto, the hegemonic role that until now the European Commission had been awarded as a central purchasing power with pharmaceutical companies. This institution recognized this Thursday that member states are free to buy antivirals on their own with the only objection that they cannot belong to the community basket; that is, to the laboratories with which the EU has concluded general agreements for all countries (AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTEch, Moderna or Janssen). Socialist MEP Nicolás González Casares said on Thursday that the German operation does not help to “improve the climate” on the logistics work of the Commission, very rarefied by the delays in the delivery of lots of AstraZeneca and the confusion around the contracts.
Spahn communicated Germany’s plans to the rest of the EU health ministers during the meeting called on Wednesday to assess the EMA report on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Regarding possible agreements, he recalled that the European Commission announced that it will not sign a contract with the Spútnik V manufacturers like those signed with other producers such as Moderna or BioNTech. “That is why I indicated in the EU Council of Health Ministers on behalf of Germany that we will talk bilaterally with Russia, first of all about the quantities they can supply.”
The German official stressed that a shipment of the Russian serum can only make sense if it happens in the next two or three months, since “later we will have enough vaccines” with the increase in production of the laboratories already hired.
The German region of Bavaria had already anticipated Spahn’s plans. Its prime minister, Markus Söder, announced on Wednesday a commitment with a pharmacist in the Bavarian town of Illertissen to buy 2.5 million doses of Spútnik V if it is authorized on community soil. The eyes are now focused on the EMA, which this weekend will arrive in Moscow to carry out its evaluation on the antiviral. The experts will visit the central facilities where it is developed and will receive the documentation required by the regulator on its composition, the clinical trials carried out with volunteers and its degree of effectiveness.
If the agency gives the go-ahead – which would not happen before at least June – most of the doses for the EU would be manufactured at a subsidiary of the Russian company R-Pharm in Germany. The company and the Government have invested large sums of money to strengthen their production lines in Europe.
- No contact.
The Commission admits that it has not had discussions with the Russian laboratories, despite the desire of several States to have the serum.
On Thursday, the Commission put Hungary or Slovakia as an example of good practice, which have acquired batches of the Russian medicine – and in the first case, the one made in China – outside their umbrella. ‘When it comes to vaccines that are not part of our portfolio, Member States can contact and close contracts with developers of vaccines that are not covered. If it is about those that are part of the portfolio, the rule applies that parallel negotiations cannot be accepted, “said Health spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker.
For his part, Community spokesman Eric Mamer acknowledged that there have been “no talks between the EU and the producer of Spútnik V”, although he specified that the Commission and the member countries can “all together decide to expand the evacuation portfolio at any time ». Memer recalled that “we have a European vaccination strategy that is based on a certain number of companies that are identified,” and warned critics of community management that Germany’s direct negotiation with Russia does not mean that this strategy is finished.
In any case, he wanted to leave a message for national or regional governments – such as that of Madrid – that want to follow that path by warning them that they will have to assume responsibilities in the event that health problems arise with antivirals acquired outside the Union.
The German decision has not caused an excessive surprise among experts either, since Chancellor Angela Merkel herself had been warning for weeks that the country was awaiting a decision from the Union and the EMA on the German serum. The lack of official EU vaccines has already forced the Government to close ‘vaccine domains’ and threatens not to reach the vaccination deadlines set by Merkel herself in a country that continues to add thousands of patients daily.
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