Mar 06, 2021 11:53 UTC
  • France slams EU members states for showing interest in Russian, Chinese vaccines

A French cabinet minister has censured the European Union (EU) member states for showing interest in the Russian and Chinese COVID-19 vaccines instead of the ones developed by the US and the UK.

Speaking to French radio RTL on Friday, France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune called on fellow member states not to use Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm vaccines unless they are approved by the bloc’s medicines regulator, warning of a risk to the bloc’s unity and public health.

“If they were to choose the Chinese and/or Russian vaccine, I think it would be quite serious,” Beaune said, adding, “It would pose a problem in terms of our solidarity, and it would pose a health risk problem, because the Russian vaccine is not yet authorized in Europe.”

Europe’s medicines regulator (EMA) announced a day earlier that it had started a rolling review of the Sputnik V vaccine, however, EU officials insisted that the approval by the EMA would not necessarily mean that the Russian jab, with an efficacy rate of over 91 percent, would be included in the bloc’s portfolio.

Beaune’s comments come as some member states in central Europe have already bought or are considering buying Russian or Chinese shots to inoculate their populations.

Hungary has started inoculating people with Sinopharm and Sputnik V, and Poland has discussed buying the Chinese vaccine. Slovakia and the Czech Republic are also assessing Russia’s Sputnik for approval.

The Italian region of Lazio said it would seek one million doses of Sputnik V if approved by the EMA, while the government of the tiny independent enclave of San Marino said it had started using the Russian vaccine this week.

The 27-member bloc has so far approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford, while ongoing reviews for CureVac and Novavax’s candidates are underway.

Responding to Beaune’s comments, a European Commission spokesman said the member states are allowed to acquire vaccines independently if jabs are not part of the bloc’s centralized procurement strategy.

Eric Mamer said the member countries are only banned from parallel talks with vaccine makers from a pan-European portfolio but they have the full right from a legal point of view to purchase vaccines from other suppliers.