French city Nice places order for Russian-made Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines, as mayor decides to preempt slow EMA approval process

The mayor of the French city of Nice has reached out to the makers of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 jab, requesting help to secure orders for supplies of the formula, which is still under review by the EU’s central medicines agency.

Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, told French news station BFM TV said that regional governments were increasingly looking to improve the momentum of local vaccination campaigns. In the absence of the EU placing collective bids for formulas that show potential, he said, mayors were within their rights to take matters into their own hands and secure supplies in advance.

“As there are no [centrally placed] European orders on Sputnik V, this means that therefore commercially we could place orders,” he said. “The only problem is that I do not have the right to administer it, and that [health regulators] must give the green light. But I can still place orders,” Estrosi added.

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Asked by journalists whether he had already worked to secure supplies of the Russian jab, the mayor replied that “we can consider it as such.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced at the beginning of March that they were appraising clinical trial results before giving the green light for the use of Sputnik V by the bloc’s members. However, the regulator’s head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavaleri, told Italian news that the process would not be a swift one. “In the coming weeks we will see if we can approve the vaccine,” he said. “But until the end of April we will not be ready to approve Sputnik V, but rather in May.”

Despite that, a number of EU countries have reportedly since lined up to secure the rights to manufacture their own vials of the formula, pre-empting its eventual approval. Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which financed the development of the vaccine, announced that his organization “has already reached agreements with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany to launch production of Sputnik V.” At the same time, “there are additional talks ongoing to boost production in the EU,” he added.

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“We are now actively working with the EMA as part of the rolling review procedure. In addition, RDIF and partners are ready to start supplies to those EU countries that independently authorize Sputnik V.” Hungary and Slovakia have both already secured doses without waiting for an EMA verdict.

Defending the move, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the “pandemic must be fought with as much vaccine as possible – that we can acquire as quickly as possible.” He added that “it is irresponsible to turn the vaccines into a political issue, and let people die and restrict their freedom, because there are political objections to the country of origin.”

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