Austria may bypass the European Medicines Agency when purchasing a Russian vaccine. Brussels warned Vienna.
The European Union is not really enthusiastic about Austria’s plans for the Vienna government to purchase a Russian vaccine that has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Sputnik F. Health Minister Rudolf Anchober admitted that they had received an offer from the Russian side and that they were negotiating the purchase of one million doses. He said that all options are being considered to vaccinate the Austrians against the Coronavirus as soon as possible. At the same time, he made clear that all vaccines used in Austria must be rigorously tested and effective. One of the heads of the European Medicines Agency, Christa Werthomer Hoch, at the Austrian public service channel ORF, asked EU member states in early March to refrain from licensing Sputnik V until the agency examines its safety and efficacy. He also said that the continuous evaluation of the vaccine has started, and data packages have been started from the Russian manufacturer, which are being checked against European quality, safety and efficacy standards (this is called a periodic review). If all requirements are met, the vaccine will be approved. Hungary was the first country in the European Union to use Sputnik V, ignoring the opinion of the EMA, and then Slovakia also bought a large amount of it. As former Prime Minister Igor Matovi did not coordinate his movement with coalition partners, a government crisis erupted and the prime minister resigned on Sunday. Licensing of the Russian vaccine in Germany is also a problem. Bavarian Prime Minister Marcus Söder, president of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), recently called in Passauer Neue Presse to allow Sputnik V as soon as possible, while making clear the necessity to learn lessons from past mistakes. However, he was not considering a smooth purchase of vaccines from the European Union. Bodo Ramilo, the left-wing Prime Minister of Thuringia, said he believes Germany should buy as many vaccines as possible, and he does not say so because it is a Russian vaccine. (The region’s prime minister is regularly accused of being pro-Russian.) However, it is inconceivable that Berlin will allow the Russian vaccine to bypass the EMA. The European licensing of the Russian vaccine, the delivery of the vaccine and the possibility of co-production were also discussed in a video conference Tuesday evening between Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and President Vladimir Putin. It would be an unexpected turn for sure if Vienna took such a step. This is because Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz has repeatedly emphasized that the condition for the supply of the Russian vaccine is that the European Medicines Agency also approves its use. But he said, on Tuesday, that geopolitical factors do not play a role in purchasing the vaccine. On February 26, Curtis held direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the possible extradition of Sputnik V. After that, the relevant authorities of the two countries contacted each other. As the Austrian press writes, if the parties reach an agreement, 300,000 doses of Sputnik V could come in April, 500,000 in May and 200,000 in early June. However, the government has yet to decide whether to actually purchase the vaccine. The Vienna Ministry of Health remains skeptical about the purchase. The EMA has warned that no formal application has been received to register Sputik V in the European Union. A spokesman for the European Commission said that in the event of an emergency permit for the vaccine, “the consequences must be born.” In this case, the responsibility is no longer with the manufacturer but with the member states. As Der Standard notes, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of which Austria has ordered a total of 2.5 million doses, will be available in the European Union from April 19. The great advantage of the vaccine is that it can be stored at temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. The Politico online portal noted that Chancellor Kurtz had put great pressure on the European Commission to get Austria more than the amount stipulated in the agreement. It also threatened to object to the purchase of 100 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which is due to arrive at the end of the year. The Vienna Chancellery denied this claim on the portal.