A new conflict is raging across Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron has warned, claiming that Russia has weaponized its domestically made coronavirus jabs in order to boost its political power, exploiting EU supply shortages.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, the leader said the supply of jabs was a major challenge and claimed, “We are facing a world war of a new kind altogether in the face of these attacks, with Russian and Chinese influence around the vaccines.”
“We need sovereignty in this matter,” Macron added. “We must be able to manufacture vaccines. … The virus will continue to be here, circulating, mutating, and we need options to deal with it.”
Earlier this week, Clément Beaune, Secretary of State for European Affairs at the French Foreign Ministry, announced that the country could begin using the Moscow-made Sputnik V jab if it gets the green light from the EU’s central regulator. According to Beaune, member states “will be able to use the Russian vaccine after its certification. And France, in turn, could start using it in June, at the beginning of summer.”
However, “there is no need to politicize this issue,” he cautioned. “If the vaccine is useful, if it is available, then you should use it.”
The European Medicines Agency, which appraises all new formulas before they are authorized for use, is currently conducting a review of Sputnik V. However, delays to the process have caused controversy within the bloc, which is struggling to secure sufficient quantities of jabs for its public immunization campaign.
The regulator’s head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavaleri, told Italian news station Radio24 that the appraisal 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.”
Hungary and Slovakia, both member states, have already pushed ahead without waiting for the agency to issue a verdict, in order to obtain orders of the Russian formula.
Hungarian President Viktor Orban defended the move, saying “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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