Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow’s permanent representative to the EU, has hit out at the bloc for delays to the approval of his country’s flagship coronavirus vaccine, arguing the hold-ups are in reality down to politics, not science.
Speaking as part of an interview with Moscow daily Izvestiya, published on Wednesday, the diplomat said the process of appraising Sputnik V had dragged on for months, despite talks with experts and officials in Brussels. Now, he said, the review had gone on for so long that it was unlikely the vaccine, made by Moscow’s Gamaleya Center, would be bought in large volumes for use by member states.
“It will, of course, be completed sooner or later,” Chizhov said, “but we must understand there is no objective need for our Sputnik in the EU today. Yes, [Russia] was the first to register a vaccine and begin using it, but that was quite a long time ago and, since then, the four vaccines used here are being produced in large quantities.”
“It is being politicized, right here in the EU,” he added, “but not by us.”
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According to him, “the international community has missed a historic chance to give a joint response to a threat that poses a threat to the entire world…. instead of uniting and co-operating, we are facing political motives.”
Chizhov claimed that “in addition to politicization, there is also the commercial interest of the world pharmaceutical giants, whose influence in the global economy over the past decade has become enormous.” He said that he “could not exclude” the possibility that Big Pharma lobbying was behind the EU’s hesitancy to accept Sputnik V, describing this as both a “logical” and “morally dubious” approach.
However, he acknowledged that there had been delays to the manufacturing of supplies in Russia and there had been a scramble for doses. At the same time, the permanent representative added that joint research was taking place with Western companies like AstraZeneca, in an effort to develop new “cocktails” of vaccines.
According to Chizhov, the most important consideration now is the mutual recognition of vaccine status for those seeking to travel between Russia and countries in the bloc. At present, there is no mechanism for Russians who have had the jab to bypass quarantine requirements on arrival, effectively making tourism impossible. However, earlier this week, Brussels announced it would accept travelers from tiny San Marino with certificates of vaccination – even if they have received Sputnik V, which is the most used jab in its national immunization program. Talks are reportedly being considered to enable Russians to do the same.
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In June, Kirill Dmitriev of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which financed the development of Sputnik V, said slow domestic uptake of the jab had been due to “a powerful disinformation campaign that was launched against Sputnik V from the outset.” He and his colleagues, he said, “believe that those behind this are a number of Big Pharma companies, as well as anti-Russian political circles.”
The month before, Sergey Naryshkin, head of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said that the delay in approving the jab within the EU was part of a coordinated campaign. “I don’t want to blame the experts and specialists of the European Medicines Agency,” he said. “But we reliably know that this procrastination is related to signals that come from on high of the European Union.”
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