In a statement posted on its official Twitter account on Tuesday, the team behind the Russian-made vaccine urged EU Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton to “please stop misleading the public with biased statements against Sputnik V.”
They accused him of using an interview with French daily Le Figaro to claim that, even if the jab were to get the green-light for use by member states, countries would only get supplies by the end of the year. “Sputnik V can deliver to Europe on the day of European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval,” they insisted.
“Sputnik V has already delivered vaccines to Hungary, 40 other nations & can vaccinate 50 million EU citizens starting in June by September 2021,” the developers added. “As a Commissioner of Internal markets you should know this but you refuse any discussion of advanced purchase agreement because of your bias.”
Hungary made waves in Brussels when it decided to move ahead with the use of the vaccine, pioneered by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, before the EMA had completed its appraisal of the formula. A domestic row in Slovakia, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Igor Matovic, was also sparked after 200,000 doses of the Russian vaccine touched down in the country in early March. Matovic argued that he could not turn down the opportunity “to save our people with a quality vaccine only because it’s made in Russia,” but coalition partners slammed Sputnik V as a tool in the Kremlin’s “hybrid war” and branded the departing leader “Putin’s sidekick.”
The EMA appraisal process has rumbled on for several weeks, despite 60 countries around the world having already given the go-ahead for the use of the formula. The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed its development, now says that it has already “reached agreements with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany to launch production of Sputnik V,” so that manufacturing can begin as soon as the regulator signs off.
Breton made headlines earlier this year when he told France’s TF1 TV that “we have absolutely no need of Sputnik V.” Instead, he said, “we clearly have the capacity to deliver 300 to 350 million doses by the end of June and therefore by July 14… we have the possibility of reaching continent-wide immunity.”
Breton’s remarks received another angry response from the team behind Sputnik V, which urged the official to take note of criticism from within the bloc about Brussels’ procurement program. “Europeans want a choice of safe and efficient vaccines, which you so far failed to provide,” Sputnik V’s Twitter account wrote. A number of national leaders have criticized the centralized approach to the public health issue, which has lagged behind countries such as the UK, US, and Israel.
“If this is an official position of the EU, please inform us that there is no reason to pursue EMA approval because of your political biases. We will continue to save lives in other countries,” the developers added.
While a rolling review by Brussels’ regulator is still ongoing, an answer has yet to be received on whether it will allow the formula to be used by members of the bloc.